Reviews of my favorite books written by expatriates, journalists, and diplomats on what it's really like to live abroad

Friday, May 29, 2009

Book Review: Our Man in Belize by Richard Timothy Conroy

When I heard Belize got hit by a 7.1 earthquake yesterday morning, my thoughts immediately turned to this classic diplomatic memoir. Back in the fall of 1961, when Belize was still British Honduras and its biggest city had a population of 30,000, Hurricane Hattie hit causing massive devastation. 400 buildings were wiped out, along all utilities, roads, and the town's supply of drinking water (Conroy's description of dealing with would-be rescuers a few days later when he'd had no sleep since Hattie and nothing safe to drink but alcohol is marvelous.)

Although it's now touted as a green tourism destination, back in 1961, Belize was a butthole pure and simple. It was one of those diplomatic postings you got when you seriously pissed off the wrong person at State Department.

In the decades since his tour as Belize's US Vice Consul, Conroy, self-admittedly, honed his stories until they "took on a life of their own". And boy are they good. Reading this book, you completely understand why St Martin's editor Ruth Cavin, laughing like crazy, paid for Conroy's lunch at DC's Hotel Madison (not a cheap place), and then begged him to write it all down. I'm awfully glad he listened to her.

You'll enjoy this book if:
- You love dry humor, especially targeted at the State Department
- You're a hurricane story buff
- You're considering moving to Belize, now a much-hawked retirement and 2nd home destination for Americans, and would like a reality check on what it was like before the current developers moved in.

1 comment:

  1. I agree, great book. Here's another one about living in Belize that just came out last month:

    Joan Fry, How to Cook a Tapir, about living among the Maya in the 1960s: