Thames & Hudson, $29.95, 256 pages
Author Christopher Ondaatje has become so accomplished in his long career that it would be impossible to criticize his wonderful writing style. It draws the reader in even if one story may not be of particular interest or is uncomfortably grim in tone. The Last Colonial: Curious Adventures & Stories from a Vanishing World is a mix of short stories ranging from the 1930s through the 1980s and covering the writer’s experiences in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Canada, Britain, and Africa. The stories are anecdotal and most are somewhat dire in one way or another, as the author seemed to court risk and danger throughout his lifetime. That he has lived to a ripe old age with great success is quite an accomplishment. A majority of the stories focus on two things: first, leopards killing people, people killing leopards, or the author achieving risky photo shots of leopards and secondly, are the journeys following in the footsteps of Sir Richard Burton and Ernest Hemingway.
This hardcover book is beautifully bound and features plentiful artwork by Ana Maria Pacheco. Her somewhat surreal illustrations suit the stories perfectly in that they are more interesting than pleasant. Altogether this compilation of stories forms such a high quality reading experience that the book must be well recommended.