#86 review: The Innocents Abroad

The Innocents Abroad;

or, The New Pilgrim’s Progress;

Being Some Account of the Steamship Quaker City’s

Pleasure Excursion

to Europe and the Holy land



560 pages

Published in 1869

This book counts for

My Dewey Decimal Challenge

and for

The 2011 Non-Fiction Challenge


I keep saying I have a love/hate relationship with Mark Twain, but this time I swear this is it, done with Mark Twain!  I actually didn’t find this book funny, apart from very few passages, for instance describing Italy, where I did recognize some aspects I encountered myself there.

But apart from that, the satire in this book was really way too much and far too negative. The only things Twain manages to describe positively in this is landscapes. But as far as people, it’s quite bad, both on his own fellow tourists and on all the people they meet. Or maybe that’s the point that I missed: that it is so bad that it is funny! Well, thanks, I have enough of that. I read it also on my ipod as an ebook, and that was a few thousands screens, not sure how I manage to have the patience to read it all, I guess I was always hoping it would get better. “The most prominent and influential travel books ever written about Europe and the Holy Land”? Really? Are you kidding? There HAS to be something better on the subject.


The Innocents Abroad is one of the most prominent and influential travel books ever written about Europe and the Holy Land. In it, the collision of the American “New Barbarians” and the European “Old World” provides much comic fodder for Mark Twain—and a remarkably perceptive lens on the human condition. Gleefully skewering the ethos of American tourism in Europe, Twain’s lively satire ultimately reveals just what it is that defines cultural identity. As Twain himself points out, “Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” And Jane Jacobs observes in her Introduction, “If the reader is American, he may also find himself on a tour of his own psyche.” [Goodreads]


Samuel Langhorne Clemens (November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910), better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist. He is noted for his novels Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), called “the Great American Novel”, and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876).
Twain grew up in Hannibal, Missouri, which would later provide the setting for Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer. He apprenticed with a printer. He also worked as a typesetter and contributed articles to his older brother Orion’s newspaper. After toiling as a printer in various cities, he became a master riverboat pilot on the Mississippi River, before heading west to join Orion. He was a failure at gold mining, so he next turned to journalism. While a reporter, he wrote a humorous story, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, which proved to be very popular and brought him nationwide attention. His travelogues were also well-received. Twain had found his calling.
He achieved great success as a writer and public speaker. His wit and satire earned praise from critics and peers, and he was a friend to presidents, artists, industrialists, and European royalty.
However, he lacked financial acumen. Though he made a great deal of money from his writings and lectures, he squandered it on various ventures, in particular the Paige Compositor, and was forced to declare bankruptcy. With the help of Henry Huttleston Rogers, however, he eventually overcame his financial troubles. Twain worked hard to ensure that all of his creditors were paid in full, even though his bankruptcy had relieved him of the legal responsibility.
Born during a visit by Halley’s Comet, he died on its return. He was lauded as the “greatest American humorist of his age”, and William Faulkner called Twain “the father of American literature”. [Goodreads]


10 thoughts on “#86 review: The Innocents Abroad

  1. Pingback: My Dewey Decimal Challenge 2011 « Words And Peace

  2. Pingback: 2011 Non Fiction Challenge « Words And Peace

    • I have read a lot of Twain and usually likes his humor very very much, but this one was satirical over the top for me. I would be curious to know what you think when you read it, it’s really a classic I guess. And what it is you like in Twain? By the way, I saw a documentary on him years ago, and I was disgusted to see how starting from nothing money ended up corrupting his character. very sad indeed


  3. And I thought I was the only person in the world who didn’t like his work! Everyone so raves about Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer and the others but they leave me cold. I’ve tried a few times over the years and never could get through anything.


  4. I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read of Twain, but I gave up on this one. He thought he was better than everyone else and he wasn’t funny; he was just downright mean and prejudiced. There were a few passages that I liked, but I ultimately decided that life is too short to plow through something that was making me so miserable.


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