A book about the diplomatic journeys all over the world may be one of the most pleasant reading experiences, I said to myself when I decided that Brigid Keenan’s book will be my next travel book lecture for the next days. Fashion journalist by profession and wife of an UK diplomat she followed her husband all over the world, especially in what the colonialist-oriented Western minds call sometimes ‘the third world’. Sometimes, the minds are so strong that cannot resist the emotional temptation of behaving as colonialists without colonies.
Theoretically speaking, when you have a British passport, it may be very challenging to understand the shortages of everyday life in Kazakhstan, the difficulties of the life in Africa or some Middle Eastern mind sets. But, the good news for humanity is that some will behave similarly when they are living in Brussels or in Paris. At the end of the day, it is not a matter of passport but of education and cultural understanding. Life can be very unfair sometimes, sending people without an open mind and heart for other cultures all over the world and keeping those with a natural-born curiosity and desire to know the world at their home bases.
As someone that till early 30s went in many unusual corners of the world, I can understand the challenges of a being compulsed to live for 3-4 years in places where you don’t know the language, the customs and with a mentality centuries away from your own. But, a mentality considering must of the people with whom he/she enters in contact different – when not completely backwarded – will not help either. Probably, this inter- multicultural education is lacking from the basic training of the wives of diplomats.
I’ve heard often diplomatic consorts or diplomats themselves complaining a lot about their host countries when they are not openly hostile. Diplomacy is not for everyone and especially when you should cope with the constraints of a stay-at-home wife more deadly poison is added to the overall frustration. But, life is not easy and if you have so high standards and you are not the Queen of England, you should try to accomodate somehow your imaginary world with the reality.
Besides the stereotypical reporting, what I did not find deem for a good travel book was the obsessive name dropping. What information does it bring to the story the fact that you have writer ‘X’ as one of your best friends? Try to introduce him or her in a good story and I will be moved to tears, I promise. Do you think that you will have more readers because you disagree with your friend about how sympathetic or unpleasant was Ariel Sharon? What it is your story about, again?
I have more books written by diplomatic wives on my priority list and as usual, I know that it is more hope for better diplomatic travel books.