Trish Nicholson is, amongst other things, a social anthropologist and she has travelled extensively in this capacity. She is also a very good travel writer.
Inside the Crocodile is based on the diaries she kept during the five years she spent as a development worker as part of a World Bank funded project in Papua New Guinea. She arrived there from Scotland in the late 1980s and stayed until the early 1990s. It’s a first-class example of a travel-memoir and it’s an enthralling read.
Trish tells of how, in order to do her job, she had to negotiate a very tricky path within a complex system of local politics and bureaucracy and an even more complex grace-and-favour social system. She warmly describes her remarkable colleagues and how she formed strong working relationships and friendships. She paints a vivid picture of this (to me at any rate) unfamiliar part of the world. The reader can visualise the dramatic scenery, feel the humid heat and taste the exotic food.
There are accounts of many dangerous moments – in tiny aeroplanes flying low over high peaks, of jungle hikes involving rickety bridges over deep ravines, and of her own brush with death due to malaria.
There’s a real TV documentary feel to this book – so clear and vivid is the writing. You feel as you read that you’re experiencing life in this jungle landscape, including the appearance of the eponymous crocodile.
This is a superb account of a brave and resourceful woman’s time in one of the world’s most remote and challenging locations.
Type of read: Escapist, educational and entertaining. Relax on a comfy armchair on a cold rainy day, mug of tea and some nice biscuits to hand, and be transported away from ordinary life to somewhere unfamiliar and compelling.
Inside the Crocodile is published by Matador and is available as a paperback and as an ebook.