Monday, 27 February 2012

Book Review: I Left My Tent in San Francisco

Title: I Left My Tent In San Francisco

Author: Emma Kennedy

It's 1989, and Emma and her best friend Dee head to the USA to make their fortune. But completely inept and virtually unemployable, they discover that they can't even get a job in McDonald's.

Forced to travel from California to New York with only pennies in their pockets, they bounce from scrape to scrape, surviving on their wits and the kindness of strangers. Bad luck and misfortune throw everything their way - snakes, earthquakes, black magic and incontinent dogs. They even get kidnapped by a sex-crazed midget in a Ferrari. This never happened to Jack Kerouac.
Startlingly honest and ridiculously funny, I Left My Tent in San Francisco is the miraculous story of how the hapless pair made it back alive to tell the disastrous tale.
Why did I pick up this book?
This was an impulse purchase from Waterstones. It was made roughly around the time that Him Indoors and I were planning our trip to the States. I don't normally read travel books so I thought it might be interesting to pick up this.
My thoughts:
First of all, this book is not really about travelling around America. It's part of the self-examining memoir genre that is becoming more popular in today's literary scene. The book is really about Emma's friendship with Dee, a fellow student at Oxford. Their trip to America was originally planned as a last hurrah in that gap between being a student and becoming a 'real' adult.
Perhaps that's why I was slightly disgruntled with the book. I had picked it up, expecting an account of Kennedy's travels in America. Instead I got increasingly stressed as the two women stumbled from one crisis to another. Leaving their tent behind in San Francisco (a 'brilliant' attempt to save money on accommodation whilst making their way to New York for their return flight) is merely the start of a downward spiral taking in encounters with a skunk, being pimped out as Girl Fridays by one hostess and having their bags stolen at a bus station. Surely, I kept thinking as I read the book people aren't that stupid. Are they?
Unfortunately the lasting image I have from this book is not of Kennedy's travels. It's a rather stomach turning account of her licking pieces of food out from her brace. Next time I'm looking for travel tips, I think I'll stick to my guidebooks.
Would I recommend this book?
Not if someone is looking for an interesting travel memoir.

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