I read this book for a book club I belong to that is currently following a travel theme. The book follows Mark Adams as he retraces the steps of Bingham, the explorer/adventurer/professor who “discovered” Machu Picchu, on the 100 year anniversary of the discovery. This should have been a great travel adventure but there were some issues with the book. Mark Adams tells his present day story interspersed with Hiram Bingham’s original tale and then with tales from Pissaro and the Conquistadors. The switching back and forth is done erratically and is often disruptive. I can’t tell whether the author did this deliberately to make a statement about how the journeys were interchangeable even after the passage or time or if it was just ….erratic.
Another issue is that the author is not the most descriptive of writers, when I am reading a travel book about some place I will probably never see, I would like the author to “paint pictures with his words” so that I can vicariously “see” his views and experience the trip. Some of the writing is very flat and leaves you with a let down feel,… okay we got to Machu Picchu, now we’re going someplace else….what?
The main positive of the book is John Leivers, Mark Adam’s Australian born guide. He seemed like a fascinating person and I would probably have loved a story about him. There is also information about the controversies surrounding Machu Picchu and antiquities in general that was all very interesting. It seems to me that the book had an identity crisis. It tries to be a little bit of everything, a biography of Hiram Bingham, a travelogue, a historical text of Peru, and some ethics essays about antiquities. In trying to do too much , if succeeds at nothing. it has interested me enough in Hiram Bingham, that I will look for other books about him.