Sliced Iguana: Travels in Mexico

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9780140281149: Sliced Iguana: Travels in Mexico

Drawn to Mexico by her powerful curiosity about this ancient land, Isabella Tree embarks on a journey to get to the heart of its complex and colourful culture. She takes part in shamanic rituals with the Maya; revels through the night with transvestites in Juchitan; awaits spirits in an ancient graveyard on Lake Patzcuaro; joins an Indian pilgrimage in the Sierra Madre; and spends a bloodthirsty Easter among self-flagellating penitents. In showing the stark realities and ancient mysticism, the tenderness and violence to be found in modern Mexico, Isabella Tree has written the perfect evocation of this country of extremes.

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Review:

When future generations assess which foreign countries have had the greatest influence on prominent writers in the 20th century, Mexico is certain to figure prominently. Graham Greene, Jack Kerouac, Malcolm Lowry, Gabriela Mistral and Octavio Paz all found the contradictions that thrive in Mexico rich food for their creative imaginations. Yet, in spite of the fact that it is the world's 14th biggest country, and possesses an immense ethnic diversity, most of us who have never been there tend to think of Mexico as one, more or less uniform, place.

In Sliced Iguana acclaimed travel writer Isabella Tree sets out to put the record straight. Embarking on a series of journeys to different corners of the country, she experiences the many different faces of the patchwork: eating Castañeda's famous peyote cactus with the Huichol people, visiting the rebellious Indians of Chiapas, and then partying in a region which stands against the overbearing Latin machismo--Juchitán, where over two thirds of the men are transvestites.

Tree writes with an impressive erudition about the conquistadors and the indigenous peoples whose lives they shattered forever. She has a connoisseur's eye for colonial architecture, and her observations are often perceptive and thought-provoking. Although the dialogue between herself and the people she meets is a little thin, her writing is sharp and illuminating, and this is likely to be among the best travel books published this year. --Toby Green

Review:

'Here is a book that goes some way towards throwing light on Mexico's multicultural mix and its rich and bloody history... It's clear she's having enormous fun, but she is also attempting something serious here: to engage with and understand something of Mexico's indigenous culture and its survival into the 21st century. Tree's second travel book confirms the promise of Islands in the Clouds: she is an accomplished traveller and a fresh and rewarding writer.' -- Anthony Sattin, Book of the Week, The Sunday Times

'An excellent, highly readable account of this huge, fascinating country. Tree deftly intercuts her personal experience with a fluent precis of the region's tragic past and its cultural origins. Her readings of Mesoamerican civilisation and history are unerringly secure.' -- The Guardian

'Her talent for picking apart a country before sewing it back together is remarkable. Brilliant, funny, gripping, sensitive. The warmth and wit of Sliced Iguana will ensure that Mexico is never underestimated by gringos again.' -- The Times

'Everything about Isabella Tree's [Sliced Iguana] is as bright and fresh as a desert dawn. Wide-eyed and sharp-penned, she explores not the backwater myth but a fast-evolving semi-continent... Tree mixes her erudition with ebullience. Such a relief to meet a travel writer who actually has fun.' -- Independent

'Masterly and moving... Sliced Iguana combines solid factual foundations with real insight and is an honourable contribution to the literature of this most baffling and beguiling of countries.' -- Katie Hickman, Literary Review

'Entertaining, erudite... with infectious enthusiasm. Sliced Iguana makes an intriguing introduction to the world of the indigenous people of Mexico.' -- Daily Telegraph

'Wry, perceptive, intelligent and irreverently funny... the best of travel writing. Wonderfully successful.' -- Times Literary Supplement

'I was as hooked as if I'd been reading fiction. The magic of Tree's writing is that she takes us with her on the journey. By the end of her story, I was ready to book my plane ticket.' -- The Traveller

'A fine example of what travel writing can achieve when it's done well. With a sense of wonder and excitement [and] packed with exotica, crammed with reflections and insights, Sliced Iguana shows just how much more there is to Mexico than tequila and chillies.' -- Daily Mail

'An eccentric heroine.' --Best Travel Book, 2002, Marie Claire

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Isabella Tree
Published by Penguin Books Ltd (2002)
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