“Un Thé à Shanghai” – Jamel Balhi

What started out as a promising read, ended up as quite a disappointment… Having shared a BlaBlaCar trip from Zurich to Paris with the author Jamel was how I first found out about his existence & a quick Google search afterwards showed up the couple of books he has written about his trips around the world. What made these trips special & different from anyone else is that he went by foot around half of the world, as in literally from Paris until Shanghai.

Finally having taken the daring step of switching up my reading with a French book now & then, I was excited to be able to read these stories I have briefly heard about during our 6h ride together, since they haven’t been translated into any other languages (I now know why….).
What I finally encountered with “Un Thé à Shanghai” was a story with so much potential but which has been wasted due to, to be completely frank, lousy writing… It should’ve been a story of travels, encounters with strangers & a tastefully presented tale of getting to know foreign cultures. What it ended up being instead, was a story with an extremely fragmented narrative (you could somehow tell how different passages seemed to have been written with big breaks between them), with a confusing story-line with sudden jumps back & forth in the chronology, at times lacking details, at others, going way too deeply into them.

After finishing up this book I’m anything but surprised that Jamel Balhi has not become more famous, maybe he should just have asked someone else to tell his stories for him.

★★☆☆☆ (2/5)

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