The Dark Tourist

By Dom Joly

Rating: 4 stars

In this book, Dom Joly (someone who I had vaguely heard of, but didn’t know much about since I really didn’t like Trigger Happy TV) records his experiences as a “dark tourist” – someone who travels to places that have been the sites of death and misery. Of the sites he visits (Iran, sites of assassination in the US, Cambodia, Chernobyl, North Korea and the country where he grew up, Lebanon) the chapters on Cambodia and North Korea were probably the most interesting. The former took him to the Killing Fields and recounted his various bizarre experiences and describes how the Pol Pot regime still overshadows the country, while the latter showed just how control-freakishly bizarre that the country is.

Joly is an entertaining companion on the journeys and despite my distaste of his brand of humour I quite enjoyed his narration of his trips. He feels, and is able to convey, a deep interest in the places he visits and you can’t help coming to share that interest, even if you’re as uninterested in actual travel as I am.

I think the weakest chapter in the book was the one on Lebanon, the country of Joly’s birth and early raising, during the civil war. Although there is historical baggage attached to Lebanon and Beirut, Joly’s description of its current state is entirely positive and there seems very little “dark” about it. This chapter is more a reminiscence for him than dark tourism. But apart from that, a thoroughly intriguing read of some places where I would never consider visiting (so I’m glad that someone else has).

Book details

ISBN: 9781847376954
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Year of publication: 2010

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