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An extraordinary travel book which ranks up there with Sandra Cisneros's Caramelo, Tim Butcher's Blood River and even the great Bruce Chatwin.

As a child, Robin Bayley was enchanted by his grandmother’s stories of Mexican adventures: of bandits, wild jungle journeys, hidden bags of silver and a narrow escape from the bloody Mexican Revolution. But Robin sensed there was more to these stories than anyone knew, and so he set out to follow in the footsteps of his great-grandfather.

The Mango Orchard is the story of parallel journeys, a hundred years apart, into the heart of Latin America. Undaunted by the passage of time and a paucity of information, Robin seeks out the places where his great-grandfather Arthur 'Arturo' Greenhalgh travelled and lived, determined to uncover his legacy. Along the road Robin encounters witches, drug dealers, a gun-toting Tasmanian Devil and an ex-Nazi diamond trader. He is threatened with deportation, offered the protection of Colombian guerrilla fighters and is comforted by the blessings of los santos. He falls in love with a beautiful Guatemalan girl with mystical powers and almost gives up his quest, until a sense of destiny drives him on to western Mexico and the discovery of much, much more than he had bargained for.


Sharply observed, very funny, and infused with the longings and possibilities of the road, it's a succulent tale.


Cleverly constructed, well paced and very exciting. I like the way Robin Bayley balances two strands of narrative - the family quest and the travelogue. Bayley has a vivid, uncluttered style which is excellent at conveying both mood and sense of place.

Andrew Lycett, author of 'Ian Fleming: The Man Behind James Bond' and 'The Man Who Created Sherlock Holmes: The Life and Times of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle'

A fine romance in every sense of the word

The Times

Bayley unpicks the story of his ancestor's adventures with much skill and persistence. He has a fine ear for dialogue with a Tarantino-style, comic-book delivery, and the ending, in which he tries to reconcile his elderly grandmother to the truth about her father, is genuinely affecting.

Hugh Thomson, Independent

Bayley ... eloquently marshals the glittering elements of a very personal story with a hefty dose of topical history that always homes back to the paths of two men's journeys, taking place a century apart. This is filled with the sights and smells of a very Latino journey, and a healthy dose of wanderlust and the thrill of the open road.

Irish Times

The Mango Orchard is charming. I love the way Bayley skillfully draws the reader into what is a very intimate and personal story. The fact that almost all families have skeletons in the cupboard somewhere gives it a universal appeal - but then the sheer drama of his discovery takes it well beyond the ordinary. And I got a real sense of the power of the mango grove - this magical, almost mythical place ... It had great resonance.

Jason Webster, author of Duende, ¡Guerra! and Sacred Sierra

I loved it. Really touching and skilfully done. A beautiful book ... I shed a few tears at the end.

Ben Richards, lead writer of 'Spooks', and author of 'Confidence' and 'The Mermaid and the Drunks'

The Mango Orchard is a story so engrossing that once you begin it is hard to put down. Every spare moment would find me buried within its pages, eager to learn the next step of his intrepid adventure ...[It] allows the imagination to run wild. It forcefully encourages the reader to think outside the box. It is the potent truth and reality behind the story that makes it both truly astonishing and an essential read.

Real Travel magazine, book of the month

It is a page-turning read ... Bayley is an excellent writer and seamlessly weaves in his own experiences with his great grandfather's life in the turbulent times of the Mexican Revolution. It is a romantic tale, simple and compelling, and - as with all the best family history stories - it has a happy ending. A heart-warming read.

Family History Monthly

This stirring book melds travel, adventure and family history together, into a rich, engaging and enjoyable whole.

Your Family Tree

Highly entertaining

Who Do You Think You Are? magazine

A highly enjoyable travelogue, complete with romance, danger and a surprise twist in the family tree

BA Horizons magazine

A surprisingly moving story

Oxford Times

A pure pleasure. Part travelogue, part touching family history, it artfully weaves the account of Bayley's journey with Arthur's, and the narrative builds to a revelation that will leave only the most obdurate reader unmoved

Independent on Sunday

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Formats & editions

  • Paperback


    April 15, 2011


    336 pages

    RRP $19.99

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