3 out of 4 stars
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Amit Offir is, according to the information at the start of this book, ‘a world traveler, an adventurer, and a sought-after lecturer.’ He also finds time to write books. In the pages of this one, The Ultimate Island, he combines his passion for travel and adventure to produce an interesting and unique guide to the beautiful Mediterranean island of Malta.
This is a short book consisting, as it does, of just seven chapters. Before he begins the account of his trip, the author explains his reasons for choosing to visit Malta. He also serves notice on the reader that this is not to be the usual kind of travel book. Instead, it will also be ‘a reflection of the attitudes and ways of thinking’ that the author has used in his travels around the world and in his other business ventures.
Each of the seven chapters covers one day of the writer’s stay on the island, and each is headed by a quote from Napoleon Bonaparte. This may seem like an odd choice until one learns that Napoleon led the French invasion of Malta in the late eighteenth century. The chapters include one day exploring the capital Valletta, a day spent sailing to the Blue Lagoon, and another spent on a walking tour of Comino Island. The writer also devotes a day to visiting locations on Malta that have been used in film and television productions. Over one hundred and ten movies and shows have been shot on the island. The book is also liberally sprinkled with color photographs of the writer in Malta, engaged in doing the things he is writing about.
I enjoyed reading this book, for the very simple reason that the author is an interesting guide with an infectious enthusiasm for the place he is visiting. He is an adventurous tourist, both physically and mentally. He enjoys active pursuits, so is quite at home touring the island on a rented motorbike, or snorkeling in the warm sea around its coast. Nor is he the kind of traveler who searches for restaurants offering a familiar, home-from-home style menu. He is content to sit at a roadside café or bar and eat locally produced food. He strikes up conversations with villagers and finds out interesting facts about the area that might not turn up in other guide books.
While I enjoyed this book, it is not without its flaws. A note at the start tells us that it has been translated from Hebrew. Perhaps as a result of this, there are times when the writing lacks a little fluency or when verb tenses get a bit confused. There are also more than a few grammatical and typographical mistakes. These can be slightly distracting but could be easily fixed with a competent edit. One final point: those picking up this book expecting to find within its pages a traditional travelogue, should be warned that the actual tour of Malta does not get going until page thirty. Prior to that, we are given the author’s attitudes and reflections on life. Personally, I could have done without these and not felt that I had missed too much.
I would give this book three out of four stars. The high number of grammatical mistakes prevents it from getting the maximum score. I chose to review it because I visited Malta at around the same time that Amit Offir made his trip and I wanted to compare his thoughts on it with my own. His enthusiasm for the island, his descriptions of the places and the food, reminded me of a holiday I thoroughly enjoyed and made me want to go back. I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy traveling and who are looking for ideas for that next trip. Movie buffs may also enjoy the author’s visits around the various film set locations.
The Ultimate Island
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