Thursday, 28 April 2011

Review: Papillon by Henri Charriere

The story of how I came upon this book is almost as interesting as the adventures in the story itself (almost!Lol!). It was July 2008 and I was in a guesthouse in Vietnam waiting to depart for my 36hr train journey from Ho Chi Minh city to Hanoi (turned out to be 41 hrs long but that's another story!) - just having been transferred from the adjacent guesthouse because they did not have the capacity to accommodate us for another night. I had just finished a book (I forget which,sorry :() and was desparate to have one on the journey, for obvious reasons. I had browsed around a nearby bookshop and bought two books related to Cambdoia, but I wasn't satisfied with them. I went back upstairs to bring down my luggage in preparationfor myimminent departure but they was so heavy that I was forced to stop in the landing and take a breather.As I sat there catching my breath, I noticed a dusty cabinet in the corner.On top of it, there was an equally dusty TV. But below the shelf holding the TV, was a dark and seemingly empty panel. I do not know what drew me to this cabinet, except my desparation to find a book, still I approached it and put my hand into this dark panel (a big no-no for someone scared of sipders. ha!). Then my hand came into contact with a hard object. Coul it be? As I withdrew the object, it became obvious it was a book. A dusty one which I had never heard of, but a book nonetheless. I was happy!
Papillon (P.S.) 
PAPILLON (HARDCOVER) ~ BY Henri Charriere 

This book can only be described as a definitive prison break novel. A prison break novel centred around a most audacious protagonist. It is set in the penal colonies of France and our hero, henri Charriere- nicknamed Papillon, is hellbent on escaping prison where he has been sentenced for a crime he denies he committed. The story takes us through his various attemps at escape (I won't tell you if he is ever successful).

This is non-stop roller coaster of suspense, intrigue and adventure. Our protagonist is betrayed, beaten, disappointed, redeemed, loved, spyed upon but continues on regardless. His refusal to throw in the towel is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and is a great motivational tool for your bookshelf.

This is to all intents and purposes, a true story. There is, however, a lot of controversy surrounding the authenticity of the novel and the story itself. Did it actally happen? Did it happen in the way we are told? Did it happen to him (the story teller)?

When I pulled this book out of an abandoned cabinet, I have never before heard about it. Now, I am recommending it to you. If you've previously never read this sort of yarn, then this is a rollickingly brilliant way to start.


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