'Solly' Mr Len

Non-Fiction - Travel
194 Pages
Reviewed on 08/31/2021
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    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

‘Solly’ Mr. Len is a nonfiction work in the travel, culture, and humor subgenres, and was penned by author Len Wilson. As the title suggests, the work takes a tongue-in-cheek look at many different cultures worldwide as the author delivers anecdotes and stories from his exploits there. A well-traveled person with an easy way of getting to know others, Len offers readers a personal account of travel away from boutique hotels and tourist hot spots by homing in on personal connections with real people instead. There is also plenty of extensive background on each of the countries featured, from historical details to facts about the architecture, culture, and lesser-known attractions.

Author Len Wilson shares his travels with others in a witty fashion, delivering an easy-to-read digest of the world from the perspective of a man who’s seen it all and done it ten times over. I especially enjoyed reading his take on places I have been lucky enough to visit, such as Amsterdam and Vienna’s Schonbrunn Palace, which brought back many memories and vivid descriptions. Wilson’s sharp writing and inclusion of dialogue moments bring the work to life, but there are also some very personal moments about his way of life that will certainly amuse and inspire would-be world travelers of today. Overall, I would recommend ‘Solly’ Mr. Len to travel writing enthusiasts who want personality as well as a sense of place in their reading experience and for anyone who’s been sitting at home these last eighteen months dreaming of getting back out into the world.

Jon Michael Miller

At first glance, ‘Solly’ Mr Len by Len Wilson might seem overwhelming, presenting a wide variety of pieces about world travel from Belize and Paraguay to the White House, Fiji, Pakistan, Mexico City, Bolivia, Amsterdam, and more. However, this collection is perfect for casual, short-time reading, coffee tables, waiting rooms, and research. The tone is blue jeans, backpack, tongue-in-cheek casual and is highly entertaining throughout. Mr. Wilson, a New Zealand teacher and travel guide, has visited 90 countries and isn’t finished, though he says he’s given up “roughing it.” Along with the sights, he writes about the history of his destinations, and he always places his descriptions in the wry milieu of his quirky personality and personal experiences: in one case, as a low-wage office employee in East London (“Maid Marion”).

Some of his titles are direct - "Belize It or Not,” “Sicilian Adventures”- but most are intriguingly inventive - "More than Cannabis and Sex,” “Still Searching” - and in every tale, the author aligns the sense of place with his personal experience. Beware the monkeys in Bali; puzzle at older men with songbirds in Malta; enjoy a honeymoon in Mauritius; get caught in a James Bond film in Vienna; and meet rock legends at a Hard Rock Café ceremony. There’s a section of photographs too, and Mr. Wilson paints fabulous word pictures in his direct, smoothly-written prose. Though I enjoyed each engaging story, my two favorites are “Busting Baste,” advice to independent writers in avoiding marketing scams, and “At Journey’s End,” reflections on where the travel business has been and how much it has changed. Oh, and if you haven’t guessed the meaning of “Solly,” it won’t take you long. For pure entertainment in short bites and an around-the-world tour that features not just the traditional destinations, ‘Solly’ Mr Len by Len Wilson is more than well worth picking up.

Emily-Jane Hills Orford

‘Solly’ Mr Len is a work of travel writing by author Len Wilson. There are different ways to travel. One way is to join a tour group and visit all the planned, organized, safe sites; the other way is to backpack and mix with the locals, to feel each moment as it presents itself. For forty-five years, Len Wilson chose the latter, visiting more than ninety countries, some more than once. Since 1977, he has journeyed and experienced life in many countries and cultures and faced the dangers that lurked around each corner. As a result, he has lots of stories: some funny, some sad, some even frightening. But, one thing he learned over his years abroad: “I came to realize that travel is not so much a physical thing as it is a state of mind.” He also learned that “travel gives one an international perspective as opposed to a narrow world view.”

Len Wilson’s travelogue ‘Solly’ Mr Len is part memoir, all told in a compelling and engaging storytelling manner. Like many other literary travelers over the years – the first name that comes to mind is Simon Winchester and the likes of Outposts – Wilson’s writing brings the reader closer to worlds they wouldn’t consider venturing into on their own. He tells each story so that the reader feels as if they are living the adventure. Also, like Winchester, Wilson can give some of the most frightening moments a touch of humor. The book is divided into chapters with attractive and inviting titles, like “Belize it or Not!” and “Roof of the World.” Sit back, put your feet up, and imagine yourself on the adventure of a lifetime as you enjoy one of Wilson’s poignant revelations of the lands afar which he visited.

Joel R. Dennstedt

Attitude and perspective often define a world traveler and especially color any foray into the genre of travel writing, which by nature reveals one’s attitude about such journeys - whether admiringly appreciative or dismissively smug. Len Wilson occupies the middle ground when conveying his personal experiences of world-wandering in his collection of engaging vignettes: ‘Solly’ Mr. Len. The title alone suggests a somewhat snickering reference to foreign pronunciation. Mr. Wilson is more beguiling when adopting a posture of humility and sincere curiosity toward his more authentic adventures, and a little less so when playing the tourist checking off multiple destinations or trivializing history with casually witty remarks – a standard fallback for many seasoned travelers establishing their vagabond credentials.

Len Wilson commendably includes much background historical information necessary for understanding both the interest and the importance of each locale mentioned in his book, ‘Solly’ Mr. Len, which deepens and broadens the reader’s involvement. From South America to the United States, Europe to Russia, including many points in-between, the geographically broad - if temporally circumscribed – presentation of ‘far off places’ is profoundly satisfying to those with curiosity. Wilson’s writing is energized, moving briskly to retain his verbal momentum and the reader’s desire to keep turning pages. His subjects are fascinating in themselves, and given the author’s somewhat constrained schedule for time spent in each location, he admirably delivers his vignettes with both vivid observations and comic relief. In the end, this is one person’s take on world places, and Len Wilson shares his views and attitudes with some truly pleasing results.

Edith Wairimu

Len Wilson’s 'Solly' Mr. Len is a humorous non-fiction work documenting his exciting travel experiences. It begins in Belize, on a wild bus ride with loud music blasting from the bus’s speakers as a group of Rastafarians call out to each other. Bags of groceries and grains flood the vehicle’s aisle. Wilson first visits Paraguay in the 1980s, during Alfredo Stroessner’s autocratic reign. While there, he is forced to observe a curfew and is keenly monitored by secret service agents. In Washington D.C., he examines U.S. history, including records of the massive 1963 protest: The March on Washington. The book documents his experiences in Fiji, Pakistan, Mexico, Russia, Israel, Tibet, Uzbekistan, and more from Washington.

'Solly' Mr. Len blends Len Wilson’s captivating experiences with interesting historical facts and cultural aspects of each country he visits. It covers the Paraguayan War of 1864-1870 that left more than half of Paraguay’s population dead, and the Feria de Abril Easter festival celebrated in Seville, Spain. Wilson’s blunt honesty when describing his experiences and his funny descriptions of the people he encounters make the book lively and entertaining. The work also only focuses on fascinating facts and experiences and is not bogged down with extraneous details. From devious girls pretending to be students learning English, police imposters, a scammer running a currency exchange service, and a con artist posing as a book scout, the book is filled with numerous interesting characters. 'Solly' Mr. Len by Len Wilson is a light-hearted travelogue with absorbing scenes and vivid historical details. I loved this book. It is well-written and infuses humor in each scene.