A book review or two

In my quest to Finish All The Books I’m In The Middle Of Reading, I have found a few gems that I thought I’d tell you about.

First up is Good Vibrations: Crossing Europe on a Bike Called Reggie by Andrew Sykes. This is the story of a man who, after resolving to spend his summer doing next to nothing, gets a little bored and dreams of adventure. He decides to travel from his home in Reading to the southern tip of Italy, following a route known as the Via Francigena. He covers France, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Italy.

For five weeks, he heads determinedly toward southern Italy and the book details the hours spend on the bike each day and the distance covered. Once you have seen a few of these, you start to understand the massive task that he is carrying out. His writing is extremely readable. I’d often intend to read a few pages while on the bus or before work and find myself transported to a campsite where Andrew and Reggie searched for somewhere away from the noisy midnight fishers or party people. Suddenly I was late for work or had almost missed my stop.

Andrew makes sure we are privy to everything his trip threw at him. Rarely are we left with a quick summing up of an entire day in a few sentences. I really love the diary style of this book. It puts you right there in the scene with him and Reggie and connects you to his journey in a way that, upon finishing it with him, you experience a sense of achievement.

Various things stick out in my memory on finishing the book. The scene where Andrew and Reggie cross the lake near Buochs in Switzerland and we are given a detailed explanation of how one “lashes” a bike to boat had me laughing out loud. When Andrew stops for lunch near the end of his journey, in Valrano Scala, and finds something called a “chip pizza” I was utterly mystified. The entire Italy section was very exciting reading for me anyway, given that I have had a preoccupation with Italian cuisine for quite some time and I am also going to Rome in a few weeks. So I read with anticipation and soaked up every bit of it. Then the scene with the chip pizza occurred. And it made me doubt everything. It make me doubt my trip, the Italians, and the future of food in general. What was this madness?! I have since been assured that chip pizzas are very tasty…. I remain sceptical.

Another thing which struck me about this trip is people’s willingness to offer a helping hand. Andrew finds a welcoming face every so often on his trip and these people always show such kindness, it makes you feel good about people in general (the chip pizza inventor excepted).

It is a lovely lovely book. A little while ago I read a book about a man who cycles to India, called You’ve Gone To Far This Time, Sir and love love loved it. Therefore, when I saw this book, about another cycling journey, I came to it with high expectations, having had such a great read last time. I was thankfully not disappointed. It is well written and fascinating. In light of epic journeys being taken, I have start making more solid plans for a walking adventure. Given that I can be quite lazy though, I think Andrew and Reggie will put me to shame as I’ll probably just walk to the shops for some chocolate and back….

(I read this book on the Kindle app on my phone.)

I thought I’d do another quick book review as I recently finished listening to The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivy on Audible.com and it was very good. It was read beautifully, the story was beautiful and it’s one of those books I keep telling people to listen to if I hear they have the Audible.com app.

An older couple decide to move to Alaska and buy some farming land, against the advice of their families. They are childless and it has always been an unspoken heartache between them. Their first few months are hard but one day, with wild abandon, they play outside in the snow and build a snowman. Well, more precisely a snow-girl. They put a scarf on it and carve a face. When they wake up, the scarf is gone and for a long time afterwards, they catch glimpses of a little girl running in the woods outside their home.

The development of this story is handled with such skill that your thoughts on first hearing about the ‘girl’ they see are a world away from your thoughts when the story concludes. It’s a story that creeps up on you. First you’re just listening every so often, thinking that the book is quite good. Then suddenly, you can’t wait to take your break at work, in order to listen to a few more minutes of it.

Finishing this book was something that took a few days of recovery. My initial thoughts about the final scene changed over time and I still feel uncertain about exactly what happened.

It is a book of uncertainties and therein lies the beauty of it. It is intriguing and enticing. It draws you in steadily until every twist and turn occupies your thoughts long after you have stopped listening/reading.

It is also read very well. When I downloaded and listened to a few other books, I realised how lucky I had been with the reader of The Snow Child. If you are already with Audible.com, listen to this book.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Might be interesting for you to read “Full Tilt: Ireland to India With A Bicycle”, by the prolific Irish travel writer Dervla Murphy, to compare with “You’ve gone too far…” Although I’ve not read either I have read a couple of Murphy books in the last few years and she also has a very engaging style: “Cameroon with Egbert” & “Eight Feet in the Andes” were both very good.

    Reply

  2. […] had a lucky first experience of Audible.com when I downloaded my first book, The Snow Child. It was read well, the story was […]

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