Her danger-filled, 18-month trek is remarkable, but it's her skill at observing details and capturing them on paper, creating a dreamy world that plays to all senses, that makes her memoir extraordinary. Of a Bombay street, she writes: "The women floated through the traffic like butterflies. The men ... leaped and darted, tentatively jumping forward and back in the path of onrushing motorcars, cyclists and oxcarts. Rickety gharries hurtled past driven by whip-cracking turbaned charioteers." Whether writing of food, rituals, or topography--"the mazing side streets were soft and muddied by the monsoon rains"--Hadley unleashes images so rich you can't help thinking that if everyone wrote like this, we wouldn't need TV. Like TV, Give Me the World is habit-forming: you ignore pressing work simply to curl up with this intoxicating memoir. When asked what's new, you may answer: "Well, today Leila Hadley stumbled into an opium den with a camera, and someone chased her out with a knife!" or, "Leila nearly died from a dust storm that gave her a fever of 107, but she survived and met Indira Gandhi." You may sniff at the books of other travel writers, as though they're phonies who aren't even trying.
In short, this is a wonderful book filled with such luxurious prose and so many cultural insights and wild experiences that you finish it feeling enriched and realizing that Hadley has set a standard for travel writing--and traveling--that few, including her ancestor Boswell, can match. --Melissa Rossi