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Head of Zeus
The Gardens of Mars
07 Jan 2021 * HARDBACK * £30 * 9781788544726

A portrait of Madagascar, the world's fourth-largest island and a place of enduring fascination for its rich biodiversity (including a plethora of endemic species), as well as for its tangled and troubled history.

Non Fiction / WTL (Travel)
Extent: 464 pages  Format: 234 x 156 mm Illus: 80 integrated colour
Exclusive: GB AU NZ IN ZA SG   Not for sale: CA US
The Gardens of Mars: Madagascar, an Island StoryJohn Gimlette

A journey – both historical and contemporary – among the fantastical landscapes, resourceful inhabitants and isolated tribes of the world's fourth-largest island of enduring fascination for its rich biodiversity: Madagascar.

An improbable world beckons. We think we know Madagascar but it's too big, too eccentric, and too impenetrable to be truly understood. If it was stretched out across Europe, the island would reach from London to Algiers, and yet its road network is barely bigger than tiny Jamaica's. There is no evidence of any human life until about 10,000 years ago, and, when eventually people settled, it was migrants from Borneo – 3,700 miles away – who came out on top.

As well as visiting every corner of Madagascar, John Gimlette journeys deep into its past in order to better understand how Madagascar became what it is today. Along the way, he meets politicians, sorcerers, gem prospectors, militiamen, rioters, lepers and the descendants of seventeenth-century pirates.

Praise for The Gardens of Mars:

'Few writers have delved into [Madagascar's] history and none as thoroughly and mercilessly as Gimlette ... His descriptions of the everyday sights of Madagascar are wonderful ... Enjoy the book as an evocation of this extraordinary island, in all its complexity and all its contradictions' Literary Review

'A beautifully written depiction of the people and history of this beguiling and perplexing island' Edward Paice

'Courageous, exploratory, humane and with a wry sense of humour' The Spectator

John Gimlette is a prize-winning travel writer who has journeyed to more than 60 countries. He is the author of At the Tomb of the Inflatable Pig, Panther Soup: A European Journey in War and Peace, Wild Coast: Travels on South America's Untamed Edge and Elephant Complex: Travels in Sri Lanka. He is a regular contributor of travel features to the Telegraph, Financial Times and Guardian.

Madagascar is of deep interest to conservationists.

Aimed both at the tourist and the armchair traveller.

A winning mix of travel and history from a prize-winning writer.

MARKET: William Dalrymple; Tim Butcher.


'Few writers have delved into [Madagascar's] history and none as thoroughly and mercilessly as Gimlette ... His descriptions of the everyday sights of Madagascar are wonderful ... Enjoy the book as an evocation of this extraordinary island, in all its complexity and all its contradictions' Literary Review

'A beautifully written depiction of the people and history of this beguiling and perplexing island' Edward Paice

'Courageous, exploratory, humane and with a wry sense of humour' Spectator

'Beautifully illustrated throughout with both archive images and photos by the author's own hand, The Gardens of Mars is destined to scoop whatever travel book awards are still in existence these days' Dr Alyson Hitch

'[Gimlette] is about the best English-language travel writer out there ... Expect five-star ratings and give it a read' Travel Mag

'A fabulous new book' Timeless Travels

'John Gimlette's latest thoughtful study sees him explore the relatively recent human history of the world's fourth largest island' Wanderlust

'This is classic Gimlette – an utter delight. Here is the tale of an enchanted island, one enlivened by its spirited inhabitants and mysterious past. But what makes the book so readable is the author's unfailing eye for the quirky and unexpected. It's a wonderfully witty and wry book, the author's wanderings through Madagascar lit all along the way by his telling eye for detail and accustomed panache' Benedict Allen

'Few writers have delved into its history and none as thoroughly and mercilessly as Gimlette ... Gimlette loves the landscape of Madagascar [...] and this is where his ability to create word pictures is most evident' Literary Review

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