Book Review: In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin

In Patagonia
by Bruce Chatwin

Publication date: January 19th 1999
Publisher: Vintage (first published 1977)
Pages: 288


Beautifully written and full of wonderful descriptions and intriguing tales, In Patagonia is an account of Bruce Chatwin’s travels to a remote country in search of a strange beast and his encounters with the people whose fascinating stories delay him on the road.

Source: Goodreads


I’ve never been to Patagonia and I only recently found out where it’s actually located! Not just the name of an outdoor clothing brand, Patagonia is a sparsely populated region at the bottom of South America, located in both Argentina and Chile.

As I’d also never heard of the author Bruce Chatwin, I didn’t really know what to expect when I was gifted this book late last year, but was pleasantly surprised by the introduction by Nicholas Shakespeare so decided to give it a go.

This is non-fiction, following 34 year old Chatwin on his travels around Patagonia in the 1970s. There’s not much description of the location itself but instead Chatwin chooses to focus on the people he meets and learns about along the way.

“She was waiting for me, a white face behind a dusty dow. She smiled, her painted mouth unfurling as a red flag caught in a sudden breeze.”

While I found some parts interesting, I can’t say that I really enjoyed this book. Full of names and dates, I was overwhelmed by the detail and found myself feeling grateful that the chapters were short. Some of the topics that he chose to write about were just not very interesting to me and I didn’t care all that much for some of chapters – right before the end, I almost gave up during the many many chapters about Charley, a British sailor!

“I passed through three boring towns, San Julian, Santa Cruz and Rio Gallegos”

Overall rating: I’m not sure why this is considered a classic as I don’t really feel that I’ve learned much about Patagonia at all. Instead of Chatwin’s mostly insignificant anecdotes, I’d have preferred to learn a little about the environment, nature, culture and politics of the place. There were some enjoyable snippets though so “In Patagonia” is getting 2 stars from me.

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