Monday, 6 February 2012

Book Review: Why Don't You Fly by Christopher J A Smith

For those readers of my other blog you may be aware of my New Year's Resolution (NYR) last year. The plan was to buy an album a month and amazingly, probably for the first time, I managed to stick to my NYR. I think the key is always to make it something positive, do more of something you enjoy. Well this year I am aiming to read one book a month. For some I'm sure this would be an easy task, for others I'm sure it would seem an impossible task. I certainly would have thought that ten years ago and certainly when we had a baby girl it would have been a no go. Anyway, as I had 13 new, unread books on our bookshelf I thought I'd give it a go. As I looked through my list of books to read I realised 7 of them were cycling related so I thought I might as well review each cycling one on here.

Why Don't You Fly? is a cycling travel book as Chris Smith attempts to cycle from his home in the UK to Vladivostok in Russia. As you can probably guess from the cover he only makes it to Beijing and I guess this is a bit indicative of the book as whole. It's a book of a nearly man, he nearly makes it all the way without getting a lift, he nearly has a romance and he nearly made it to Russia.

The book as a whole is an enjoyable read and through Chris you learn quite a bit of history about the places he rides through. He teaches about where the people have come from and what is in the make-up. He uses big words without it detracting from the book and I feel I'm being educated without effort. I admire him for the journey he has been on but he just doesn't get to know the people very well. I guess I was always comparing his book to a similar book(s) by Alastair Humphreys. Alastair always seemed to end up sleeping on someone's floor and getting to know the locals. Chris just wanted to be left alone and needed space. He's older and more cynical and while at times his grumpy nature can be amusing at other times you wish he'd just open himself up more.

In fact the best parts of the book are when he has company and how he interacts with them. A boring Serb, a funny German (an oxymoron if ever I heard one) and a sweet Dutch lady all bring life to the journey. I'm quite a people person myself so perhaps that's why I enjoy these interactions.

To sum it up, to ride the distance he did is impressive but not superhuman. To the extent that maybe (I said maybe) I might be able to do it. What Alistair did was something special (he cycled the world), I would recommend both authors but if I was just to read one of them...

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