Sept 2016 TBRTwo books which are about travelling a long way in difficult circumstances today, even though one’s a novel and one’s a memoir / travel narrative. Both of them also arrived with me at Christmas time as part of a Not So Secret Santa gift. I’m reading my TBR a little out of order at the moment because I have a big wodge of substantial Virago novels at the front of the shelf and need to space them out with a few things. And the Macomber was perfect reading when I was suffering from a bit of a cold earlier in the week (I seem to be better now).

Debbie Macomber – “Dashing Through the Snow”

(03 December 2015, from Sam for Christmas)

This is a VERY silly short Christmas novel – but, of course, there’s nothing wrong with very silly short Christmas novels! Ashley’s trying to get home for Christmas and the improbably but usefully named Dash is heading to an interview in the same place. When Ashley mysteriously can’t get a plane ticket and there’s only one car left in the hire place, they’ll have to do the odd couple thing and travel together. Their enforced road trip – with added puppy, as  you do – is enhanced by a peculiar sub-plot involving a wanted terrorist a police officer is trying to track down. Is it a case of mistaken identity … or not? Silly but fun.

Mark Archer – “Connecting in Iceland”

(03 December 2o15, as above, a great find!)

An oddly large-format (you can see it sticking out from the back row in the TBR picture above) self-published travel memoir in which the 58-year-old, unfit author decides to fulfil the dream of a lifetime and trek across Iceland, going right across the central highlands if he can make it.

It’s basically a good book, honest about the struggles both physical and psychological (I reckon I’d be OK, but if you’re the kind of person who needs people around you, and the author has just left a teaching job, which would highlight this even more, it would be tricky, I can see), but the humour is a bit laboured at times (just as Bill Bryson’s, an author he says he admires, is at times, to be fair) and …

OK, I’m an editor and I do notice stuff; I can’t help it. Normally I let things go by unless they’re really prominent, and I certainly don’t shill for work by pointing out when people need an editor, because I have sufficient work of my own without doing that (and that policy actually rarely works). But this book is quite badly let down by its lack of editing (the author thanks a relative for help with proofreading, so I’m going to assume there wasn’t an editor). There’s a lot of redundancy in the text, a lot that could be pruned, and an awful lot of writing /grammar / punctuation issues, all of which basically let what could be a good read down quite badly. In my opinion, the book could be the same thickness and a standard size and retain what is good about the text, and that’s a shame.

The book shares exactly what it’s like to trek across Iceland, with its uncertain weather conditions and difficult terrain, and does a good job of describing the people he meets along the way. The chorus of birds is interesting and well done and the descriptions of the birds themselves engaging. The technical details of his traverses of rivers and the summary of how the kit did are great, and the kit list at the back useful. I also personally loved reading about the bits of Iceland I’ve read about and some places I’ve actually been, once he got back to the south-east, and there are good descriptions of the mental efforts involved, too.

I’m currently still loving “The Song of the Lark” and looking forward to exploring a new (to me) Halldor Laxness novel next.