Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Long Hard Slog


Spanish Steps - Travels With My Donkey by Tim Moore
A Review by Robert Bovington
I found this book annoying, often tedious, occasionally interesting and very occasionally funny.
So why did I find the book annoying? Well to start with, various critics have described the author as humorous - inside the book cover, 'Image' described Tim as "Without a doubt, the funniest travel writer in the world"; the 'Irish Times' even hailed him as the new Bill Bryson. What rubbish! I find Bill Bryson so interesting and amusing that I have read all his travel books two or three times and even his other, more serious, works like "Mother Tongue" and "Shakespeare" are funnier and better written than Tim Moore's book about his long expedition with a donkey. Like his journey, I found the book a long hard slog.
I found his writing style extremely verbose, sometimes undecipherable and often plain irritating - okay, the word 'click' may be military slang for a kilometre but I found the copious use of the word irksome. I found his humour often grated - too many puns and too adolescent. I certainly didn't 'laugh out loud' but, to be fair, I did chuckle to myself on a couple of occasions. I didn't mind, either, some of his 'toilet' humour, though there were too many references to donkey poo for my liking. 
So what were the good points? Well, Tim Moore follows the travel writer's 'well worn path' by describing many of the places he visits and supplementing this with quite a bit of history. He does this quite well. He also manages to get across to the reader the sheer scale of the journey - the good bits and the bad. Blistered, sometimes sun-scorched, occasionally rain-soaked, the author does a credible job of describing his 750-kilometre trek across northern Spain accompanied by a donkey. 
I can applaud Tim Moore for completing the 'Compostela de Santiago' even if his ulterior motive was to provide material for a book. However, in my view, it is nowhere near the best travel book I have read. He may have walked the path of St. James but he is not yet fit to be mentioned in the same company as Washington Irving, Gerald Brenan, Ernest Hemingway or Chris Stewart - nor Bill Bryson. 


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