Newly single Jack Kavanagh….sorry, Kaganagh…..longs to visit one hundred countries and join the esteemed Travelers’ Century Club. To tick off his last three countries he books a trip to the Coronation Islands, despite travel agents constantly getting his name wrong. Travelling alone for the first time since the death of his partner, Kay, our curmudgeonly protagonist tackles poor restaurants, mosquito bites and being in the company of irritating tourists. He’s not a happy man.
The author of The Excursionist, J.D. Sumner, has a PhD in Satirical Travel Writing and this fact alone was enough to pique my interest in his debut novel. At times it doesn’t read like a novel at all and I found myself curious as to whether places and experiences were imaginary or not. Once I’d put Google aside and just accepted the book for what it was, a satirical collection of travel scenarios, then it was a much more enjoyable ride. The three Coronation Islands might not exist but travellers will be able to swap the fictitious Placentia, Kilrush and Fulgary for any number of exotic destinations.
I could identify with the 5* hotel with its endless room descriptions from “pool villas” to “deluxe spa pool villas” to the ultimate “over-water cabanas deluxe plus”: classifications designed to make you feel your choice is never going to be good enough. I laughed at his in-flight frustrations, only being allowed an eggcup-sized measure of water at a time. And haven’t we all hovered by the departure gate, anxious to pick up clues from the walkie-talkie conversations?
Jack Kaganagh isn’t a particularly likeable character and I felt the back story of his dead partner didn’t really add anything to the narrative, but there’s no denying that Sumner has a talent for humorous travel writing. I hope that, as he continues his extensive travels, he will share his stories of real places instead of the imagined. I, for one, would love to follow him on those journeys.
The Excursionist, by J.D. Sumner, is published on 17 May 2017 and was sent to me to review.