Book Review: The Rough Guide To Jamaica

The Rough Guide To Jamaica, by Lebawit Lily Grima and Sarah Hull

It can be fascinating to read tourist guides to see just how tourists are expected to behave. I have to admit, in reading this book, that I am not the sort of tourist that this book would assume that I am. Far from being upset about the religious nature of Jamaica’s culture, that would be among the most praiseworthy aspects of a culture that I otherwise have a lot of critical and negative things to say about it. Far from being interested in casual, promiscuous sex and the smoking of a lot of ganja, which this book appears to assume are among the chief interests of those who plan on visiting Jamaica, my own interests are far different. To say that this is a guide that does not speak to who I am as a person and who I am as a tourist is to state something that is obvious, but all the same one can still find a great deal of value even if the book is clearly written for someone of a vastly different stripe of character than I am personally, whether or not that is a bad thing I leave for others to determine.

This book is about 300 pages long and it is divided into a few sections. The first book contains a short introduction that discusses where to go within Jamaica, when to go, things not to miss, and itineraries based on the authors’ preferences. After that there is a discussion about the basics of transportation there, getting around, accommodation, food and rink, festivals, culture and etiquette, and the like. The bulk of the book is, as one would expect, focused on the guide itself. This guide is divided into regions, beginning around Kingston, the capital, and the immediate area around that (including Port Royal, famous for being a pirate haven). The guide then moves to the east to the area around the Blue Mountains as well as the undeveloped eastern coast, then the North Coast around Ohco Rios, the cockpit country south of Montego Bay, and Negril and the tourist areas to the west of the country, and finally the south below Mandeville with its natural beauty. After that the book closes with a look at contexts within Jamaica, including history, the environment, religion, music, books, and language, all of which will provide the reader with additional insight as to the country and its history and ways, after which there is some small print and an index.

In many ways, this book simply reiterates what a lot of other travel guides have to say about Jamaica. The guide goes out of its way to point Jamaica as not being a particularly place for visitors go and it is also written for the American of light moral values and no particularly deep religious values and potentially the vulnerability to becoming a drug trafficker. The authors also manage to draw an optimistic perspective out of the decline of political violence because of growing doubt that any government can shake Jamaica up from its sense of persistent malaise, a malaise that appears to have been engendered by the belief that government can bring national salvation if done correctly, which is most definitely not the case. For the most part this book is a conventional guide for people who are American tourists of no particular high degree of moral sensitivity, but among its quirks is the somewhat irritating one that its regions do not line up with the parishes within Jamaica, which is not something that will matter to all readers except those of us that are particularly interested in regional geography and the boundaries of the country as a whole.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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