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Review: To a Mountain in Tibet, Colin Thubron

to a mountain in tibetIn 2009, Colin Thubron journeyed to Tibet to climb the impressive Mount Kailas. Scaled by very few, usually approached and gone around by the path that Thubron takes, the mountain is sacred to Buddhists and Hindus, as well as a number of minor religions and sects that have sprung up around it. Thubron visits several of these as he journeys, as well as staying at very basic camps and experiencing life in Tibet with his two comrades, a cook and a guide. His journey isn’t just physical, as he pulls in his own mental and spiritual experiences to make a fully rounded trip for both the mind and body.

This was a travelogue unlike anything I’d read before. They are a bit of a new genre for me, so I was excited to try out another new author. I ended up getting a lot more than I expected.

The first thing that really astonished me about the book was Thubron’s writing. Not that the other books I’ve read have been written poorly, but his writing is almost poetic in its beauty. He really delves deep and describes the scenery and the people in ways that are almost transcendent. I kept getting lost in the imagery and thoughtfulness of his observations – he’s obviously one of those people who just sees and feels things more deeply, and has the ability to put all that into words. At times, I felt as though the stark loveliness of the writing kept me from really getting to know Thubron, but then he would share an insight from his life, about the loved ones he’d lost and the fact that he was the last remaining member of his family, that made me feel sympathy for him once again, and regain interest in his journey.

I’m not particularly familiar with Tibet. It’s one of those places that I know is far away but is off of my personal map, simply because I’ve never had cause to learn about it. Thubron’s book is interesting in this respect, particularly because he does delve a bit into the history of the places and the many spiritualities that worship the mountain. Considering it’s a place I’d never even heard of before picking up this book, I was quite surprised to discover just how revered it is, even more that people go on pilgrimage there and actually sometimes die because it’s hard going and tour operators don’t always monitor the people who go on their trips.

It’s a short book, but it is quite deep, and I suspect you’ll find it takes you longer to read than you expect, as it did with me. It isn’t perfect – sometimes the many names of religious sectors and gods, for example, gets overwhelming and adds up to too much. But take a little time to really appreciate the beauty of Thubron’s words and I think you’ll find that To a Mountain in Tibet is a rewarding read.

I am an Amazon Associate. I received this book for free for review from the publisher.

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