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