CHASING THE MONSOON by Alexander Frater


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 Frater, travel writer for the London Observer, follows India's summer monsoon to the wettest place on Earth in this eccentric, sporadically entertaining exercise in meteorological nostalgia. The son of a Scottish doctor in the South-West Pacific Islands, Frater was brought up with a healthy respect for both the transformations and catastrophes rain could bring. In 1987, shortly after his mother had died and he himself had contracted a numbing nervous disorder, he got the idea to travel to India and experience the legendary summer monsoon, in the vague hope that its reputed rejuvenating powers would lift his own spirits as well. Arriving at the southern tip of the continent to find weather forecasters frantically calculating the moment of the rains' arrival, Frater learned that the tardiness or outright absence of a monsoon-more likely now due to India's shrinking forestland and increased pollution-can potentially topple governments, inspire revolutions, and substantially raise the level of violent crime as citizens broil in the summer heat. This year, luckily, the rains arrived on schedule. Frater joined throngs of monsoon pilgrims on the coastline, greeting the black wall of precipitation with almost religious fervor, then waded north in its fitful wake through Cochin, Goa, Bombay, and Calcutta before ending up on the border of Bangladesh in Cherrapunji, ``the wettest place on Earth,'' where the monsoon made its dramatic last stand. The 1987 monsoon proved disappointing, leaving vast areas of India drought-stricken, and Frater, ironically, as perhaps the only person on the subcontinent to have fully enjoyed its moist marvels. An unusual adventure, and a fascinating look at modern India.

Pub Date: April 2nd, 1991
ISBN: 0-394-58310-8
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1991