On Amazon UK
How I discovered this book: Loved the film, had to read the book!
In a Nutshell: True life survival in Bolivian jungle
I'm glad I saw the film before reading the book, because it helped me to picture the places - much less frustrating than film-after-book, when you're always too aware of what has been left out.
This is the sort of story that makes you think 'if this was fiction you would say it was far-fetched'. Yossi, Kevin and Marcus, backpackers in Bolivia, fall in with the mysterious and clearly dodgy Karl Ruprechter, if indeed that was his name, and get talked into going on a potentially dangerous adventure in the jungle. After many setbacks and difficulties, the group splits up: Karl and Marcus to go back to a village, and Kevin and Yossi to carry on downriver, traversing a section that even experienced rafters would not attempt. The worst happens (lots of it), the two get split up, and Yossi survives for three weeks in the jungle, on his own, in the middle of the rainy season.
|I believe Yossi is on the right, I imagine shortly after his rescue, and Kevin on the left. But I may be wrong.|
The book is perfectly structured, with lengthy background about how Yossi teams up with the others and how they fall in with Karl, all of which makes for a good understanding of the mens' personalities and why various decisons and mistakes were made ... then comes the increasingly worrisome trek into the jungle, all the time with the suspense building as you wait for everything to go horribly wrong. And I mean HORRIBLY wrong. What Yossi went through defies description, and I was totally gripped all the way through.
As for what happened to Karl and Marcus, I will not give any spoilers....
|Ghinsberg shortly after rescue|
It's not a perfect book; some unnecessary animal cruelty (I mean when they were ill-treated, or hunted for sport rather than when necessary for food) was hard to stomach, there were times when I thought the editing was a little sloppy (a fair few repetitions), and I thought there was too much detail about Yossi's daydreams and hallucinations in the jungle, but on the whole I couldn't give this book anything less than five stars, because I loved it, to the extent that I am just googling stuff to find out more, and locate pictures. And I don't think I'll be able to read anything else for a couple of days - always the sign of a thoroughly good book!
It's a story of youthful optimism and naïveté, of comradeship, incredible resilience, bravery, the best of human nature and the worst - and of how the less you have, the more you value the small and seemingly insignficant. Highly, highly recommended, but watch the film first.
|Ghinsberg with Daniel Radcliffe, who plays him in the film|
Also found this picture, when I googled Karl Ruprechter - the article says the one on the right is Kevin, but I can't be sure the other is Karl.