An adventure in time: The Hills of Adonis by Colin Thubron

Although Thubron spent four months on the trip, he produced a concise travelogue not 200 pages long. His book is sharp and insightful, offering glimpses into daily Lebanese life in the 1970s. However, I expected more than ‘glimpses’. After his four-month trip, Thubron could have been in a position to characterise the people of his host country with more depth. It frustrated me a little: Thubron is clearly a good writer, a fine observer and an enticing guide. I wish he had married these more, and woven a richer tapestry of Lebanese character.

Instead, the writer focuses on Lebanon’s place in history. His trip sets out to explore Lebanon as an ancient land, populated by the gods and cults that spread around the world. His quest is there in the title, The Hills of Adonis. And, to his credit, Thubron does warn us that his book will involve “a long walk down the corridors of time and thought”. He certainly succeeds on his own quest: to uncover the relationship between ancient gods and the landscape that gave rise to and nurtured them.

I think it could have been even more enjoyable and more powerful if Thubron had tied together the ancient with the living. Comparing the Lebanon of antiquity and modernity would have been a worthwhile challenge, and possibly much more of a quest.

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