Saturday, March 15, 2014

Paris to the Pyrenees

A grown-up book
Paris to the Pyrenees: A Skeptic Pilgrim Walks the Way of Saint James by by David Downie, Pegasus, 2013.  ISBN: 978-1605984322

I am interested in spiritual/pilgrim walks so I was happy to find this memoir. It is a useful and entertaining as a travelogue/virtual vacation. I liked the accounts of where they visited and what they ate, especially the food.  The challenges of finding shelter and food in the small towns, somewhat off the other more heavily traveled pilgrim route, were not issues I would have considered.

Perhaps it was because I listened to the book instead of reading it but I found Downie's "skepticism" and his relentless suspicion of all things religious and Catholic,  tedious.  I was warned -- it was there in the title.  Perhaps he was aiming for light-hearted irreverence but I found it wearing after a while. I was more intrigued with the insights and reactions of his wife, Alison Harris. She seemed more in tune to the rituals of the faith experience and willing to embrace the spiritual aspect of the walk. This is his memoir so we do not get to hear her thoughts except as he reports their conversations.  You sense his admiration as she seems  undaunted by his ongoing commentary. I know I missed out on half of the experience as the audiobook does not provide the accompanying photographs that Harris took along the way. 

Having lived in France I did appreciate his insights into Mitterrand and WWII and ancient Gaul.  His dedication to the effort, returning to finish it after having abandon it due to an injury, was inspiring. The reader/listener is left hopeful as he is ponders taking on the next leg of the pilgrimage at the end of the book. I would read that book too.

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