The Rum Diary

What better book to read on a long flight to the Caribbean to talk about cocktails, than gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson’s fictional account of a young reporter’s rum-fuelled experiences in 1950s San Juan, Puerto Rico?

A longer book, that’s what. I’d read the whole thing and we’d barely cleared European airspace.

But it was a great way to get into the spirit of Puerto Rico. The Rum Diary manuscript lay unpublished until Johnny Depp came along and, er , discovered it. And then played the lead character in the film adaptation. I haven’t seen the film, but the trailer suggests that it’s not a line-by-line retelling of the story. I don’t think I’ll watch it.

The book is rather good. Thompson’s pacy, pithy and punchy style never lacks substance – or substance abuse. It captures that tipping point from the exuberance of being 20-something and up for anything to being 20-something and aware of your own mortality. But it also captures a moment in place. It has a carnival energy about it but navigates deftly between the challenges of 1950s Caribbean life with a constant undercurrent of menace that occasionally surfaces, and the playboy lifestyle of the increasingly disillusioned paradise seekers.  7/10

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