Traveller’s Prelude

Stark, Freya. Traveller’s Prelude. London: John Murray, 1950.

Reason read: Freya Stark was born in January. Read in her honor.

This is first of Stark’s autobiographies (followed by Beyond the Euphrates and Coast of Incense.) Traveller’s Prelude starts at the very beginning with Stark’s grandparents (all with the surname Stark) in 1893. Stark’s parents were first cousins. From the very beginning Freya’s life was filled with adventure. At the age of two and a half. Freya’s parents took her and her sister over the Dolomites. Freya began “running away” when she was only four years old. Her mother recalls losing Freya on a train only to find the child in the smoky third class car, sitting on the knee of a sailor (p 34). As a young woman she volunteered medical services in the First Would War. After the war she bought a farm and made her own wine. While lonely for marriage, Freya didn’t while away her time pining for a man. She had friends and mountaineered often; she believed she was the first woman to climb the Rocca Provenzale. Traveller’s Prelude ends with the death of Freya’s sister, Vera and the very beginnings of Freya’s interest in the middle east.

Do you know that question, what famous person, living or dead, with whom you would most like to have dinner? My answers were always Natalie Merchant (living) or Edgar Allan Poe (deceased). After reading Traveller’s Prelude I change my second answer to Freya Stark. Sorry, Ed!

Favorite lines, “Running away is the wrong word for such adventures, that go notto escape but to seek” (p 37-38), “They might look like railway trains, streaking with swift bodies of lighted carriages and smoke, but I remember making myself think that they were dragons, and dragons to all intents there were” (p 48).

Author fact: Freya almost died when her hair got caught in some factory machinery when she was a teenager.

Book trivia: Traveller’s Prelude has the coolest photographs of Freya as a young child, beginning when she was only one year old. They are not clumped together in the center of the book, but interspersed throughout the narrative which makes the reading delightful. One of my favorites is of Freya, at age one, standing with a man I can only assume is her father, grasping his tie in her little hand. But, the one of her reading is delightful, too.

Nancy said: Freya Stark wrote “insightfully” about the Middle East (p 143).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Lady Travellers” (p 142).

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