Many readers who enjoy armchair travel will enjoy Fragrant Heart, an extensive Asian travelogue —but just as many readers will skip pages, even chapters as this is quite extensive and, unfortunately, in paperback edition. Miranda Emmerson is a good writer but she is often lost in details and often sidetracks; both in the travelogue also in her personal life of the past and during the trip. She takes this rather extensive trip with a long-term male partner though their travels and personal relationship is not always smooth—in fact she was on the verge of quitting at one time.

“This book is about travel but it’s also a book about food.”

Food is always a focus wherever they stayed; for several months in Beijing, shorter times in Viet Nam, Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia. The next focus is local culture and history. They travel on a budget and resort to grueling forty-hour train rides, e.g., to save money. Emmerson describes the ride in detail, and many readers may skip pages. Following each chapter she adds a few local recipes—these are not easy to reproduce—most are long and complicated, with ingredients in metric units. And in paperback instructions inconveniently go through several pages. A few mediocre black-and-white sketches illustrate this travelogue.