New Europe, by Michael Palin

Second paragraph of third chapter [visiting Medjugorje]:

Such has been the impact on the local economy that a cynic might think there’s a conspiracy to keep a good story going, and when we’re suddenly told that one of the original visionaries is happy to meet and talk I wonder if we’re using them or they’re using us.

This is a book-of-a-TV-programme, made in 2006/7 by Palin as one of his travelogue series, taking in all the former Communist countries of Eastern Europe, plus Turkey, minus most of Russia (represented briefly by Kaliningrad). An average of 14 pages per country doesn’t get you very much insight, especially since in several cases he has to divert to do something touristy that will look good on the small screen (leeches in Estonia, for instance) rather than actually exploring what is going on in a particular society. I guess this is inevitable for the kind of book it must be, but it’s not Patrick Leigh Fermor. I might have enjoyed it more if I’d known less about the countries in question.

This was my top unread book acquired in 2013; next in that list is A Man of Parts, by David Lodge.