Sunday, August 27, 2006

Outposts - Simon Winchester

The Basics: Outposts, Simon Winchester, 1985, 317 pages, hard cover. (However, there was an updated version of this book released in 2004 and that cover of that book appears above since I couldn't find the old cover on the internet.)

How I found it: Randomly browsing through my favourite section of the Dewey decimal system, the 900s, at the local public library.

What's it about?: In the early '80s Winchester visited each one of the remaining colonies in the British Empire. He writes about his experiences in each place plus gives a little history about each one. His book captures the world at an unusual time - it is just after the Falklands war and at the start of the negotiations between China and Britain for returning Hong Kong so the last vestiges of empire are on everyone's minds.

Did I like it?: I really enjoyed this book. I had heard of many of the colonies, such as Gibralter and Hong Kong, yet I didn't know much about them. Others, like Pitcairn Island and Tristan da Cunha I had never heard of. Winchester captures the heart of the people of each little colony and does a great job of recounting their history as well. As I was reading the book my only complaint was that I wished there was an updated version of the book since I wanted to know what had happened to these colonies, some of which had an uncertain future at the time the book was published. I was quite surprised to find out that Winchester had read an update in 2004, and I had missed it since my little library only had the old version. I'll be sure to pick up the new version.

Will you like it?: Although I haven't read the updated version, if it is anything like the 1985 version, it is a worthwhile read. It is informative, interesting and engaging. As a former British colony, Canada's future, or perhaps Newfoundland's, might not have been too much different than some of the colonies Winchester discusses and it is interesting to see how things might have turned out. Perhaps like me, this book will make you want to visit some of these odd little corners of the world.

But don't take my word for it: Reader reviews from, and a review from a blogger called The Llama Butchers.

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