Around England with a Dog by Lesley Choyce

Book Review

Around England with a Dog by Lesley Choyce, 2022. Rocky Mountain Books.

Early into reading Around England with a Dog by Lesley Choyce, I started chuckling. I kept chuckling. Choyce’s humour is understated yet effervescent. He and his wife Linda travelled around England (as you may guess), but also Scotland and Wales, with a Highland terrier named Kelty.

While the intrepid trio hiked, toured, meandered, and imbibed various local beers — the latter with Kelty’s approval, of course — I drank in literary history and astute observations. What also enticed me? Choyce’s words. To relate one of many examples, he depicts Claude Monet as a man with an “ambitious beard.” Ambitious describes Monet to a t. Around England with a Dog is a captivating travelogue underscored by the author’s candour and self-deprecation.

Off-the-beaten Track

Under The Holy Lake by Ken Haigh, 2008. University of Alberta Press.

Reviewed by A.M. Potter. ® 2019.

Those who know me, know I’m a big fan of travelogues featuring distant lands. Few countries are as remote as Bhutan.

Under The Holy Lake presents a captivating memoir of two years in Bhutan. The prose is polished and whip-sharp. The author, Ken Haigh, is thoughtful and learned without being pedantic. The memoir is entertaining, at times light and effusive, yet also profound and intensely satisfying. What does it say?

Go to Bhutan. (Or, if not Bhutan, any place off-the-beaten track.) Live there, work there. If you can go when you’re young, all the better. It will stay with you for the rest of your life. Approach the new land slowly. Accept it warts et al; in the case of Bhutan, torrential rain, foot-long poisonous centipedes, and confusing social mores, to name a few.

Haigh certainly accepted it. His time as a teacher in Khaling, Eastern Bhutan, is a study in cultural adaptation, always a long and arduous road, and not always successfully traversed. He came to cherish Khaling – the valley under the holy lake – and the Bhutanese people. I won’t elaborate on the book’s narrative trajectory. I rarely do. Instead, I’ll say: “Read for yourself.” Experience the real Bhutan, from a to z: ara (corn-mash whisky) to zhugcho (please, sit).

PS: Haigh tells of two years in the late 1980s. Of course, places never stay the same. Bhutan is still 12,000 km from central Canada, but it is no longer distant in time. No place is.

Click to view Under The Holy Lake.