Lead Review

  • Book: All at Sea: Another Side of Paradise
  • Location: The Surin Islands
  • Author: Julian Sayarer

Review Author: Tina Hartas




Julian Sayarer is the author of Interstate which won the Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the year in 2016, which is no surprise because this is an author who can write so very well and paint a picture in sufficient colour and detail that the reader is reeled right in, peering over his shoulder. One of the few authors who can really write a convincing setting.

He is also very clearly socially engaged. He is part of a team aboard the Atlanta, travelling from Phuket in a north westerly direction to the islands known as Ko Surin Nuea – Surin – to make a film about The Moken sea gypsy people, who live there.

He is part of a motley crew of varying nationalities, each with a particular skill to bring to the project. However, it is so idealistic that it is a struggle to really get it off the ground. This whole ‘journey’ is a vehicle where he can reflect on the social inequality that sees rights of The Moken largely eviscerated by big conglomerations and individuals who have scant regard for their welfare and rights. They then have to solicit tourists to make ends meet and go to extreme lengths to keep their families alive.

His journey starts out in Phuket where he muses upon the travellers who are passing through and takes a pop at the failing welfare state back in the UK. It’s not a gratuitous whinge but a well built-up story within a story that conjures up sadness, hopelessness and depression. Moving on swiftly, however, this is a storyteller who can tell a really good tale and build it within an evocative and realistic setting, observed with nuance and all recorded for posterity.

And I learn so often from the books I read. Who knew that wiping a papaya skin over your face is great for the complexion, especially when out in the strong sun of Thailand. Lightness apart, this is a strong memoir and just transported me to this part of Thailand.

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