Now that I have read it, I must admit I am left disappointed. This is one of those few books that I searched amply, and when I got hold of it was thrilled and began reading.
Fishing in Utopia, by Andrew Brown, is basically a book that claimed it was about “Sweden and the future that disappeared”. In researching about Sweden, before I landed here, wanted to do my bit of reading. Beyond history, this book, as I then understood would have given me deeper insight into the country.
This disappointment of course arises from multitudes of reasons. The personal one being, I must have read this book when in India and I might have found it more engrossing, maybe. I got hold of the book finally here in Sweden, after a month of my stay here. And it seems that one month has been sufficient for me to learn all the nuances that I might have learned by reading this book.
Of course, other important reason is that it is not a very well written travelouge, nor a critique of the country in whatever the caption as it was supposed to be based on the projection of the book.
The dragging travelogue
For someone who relished every bit of “The Motorcycle Diaries”, maybe anyother travelogue might be less impressive. But a simple rule of reading travelogues to me is that I am either trying to learn more about the traveller, or know about the place. It turned out that “Fishing in Utopia” is with my limited experience everything a travelogue shouldn’t be about.
It has tedious anecdotes of the author’s personal life, his less than exciting interactions with strangers and a cynical view about Sweden. Now, this personal perspective he delivers throughout the book is not something I enjoyed, simply for the fact that I was not keen on learning his personal journey through Sweden. But, the fact that he delivers very little insight into the country, the nuanced country that Sweden is is gravely disappointing.
The take away from this book is that I have an idea now about how a travelogue shouldn’t be written.
Except for a couple of chapters, for instance the penultimate one Gringo, there is tedious whining of a middle aged man and a deeply cynical view about almost, everything.
Another mistake on my part would be that I totally ignored the title “Fishing” in Utopia. I presumed it was metaphorical to the plausible struggle the author had faced. It turns out he talks volumes about fishing, and that’s the only portion of his writing that was positive in any scale.
Very little of Sweden
The impetus for me to get hold of this book was to gain insight into Sweden, as an outsider. Now that seems to be the biggest flaw for the reader I was. It is a simplistic account of a cynic, delivering little or no additional insight into aspects of Sweden, after having spent decades of his life through very interesting times in Sweden.
One thing that I did like about the author though were his plentiful similes, generously sprinkled through the book. The failure of the book is not that it was incapable of delivering better content, it could have, as some of the chapters and few paragraphs overall manifested. It is the inability to have converted that potential into a richer read.
Or maybe, my expectations as a reader are unreasonable. Enough of my whining. Time to get onto my next reading.