An Armchair Journey Through the Backroads and Mountains of France and Spain

Book Title: Two Steps Forward

 Author: Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist

Cover Image of Two Steps Forward by Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist
Source: Text Publishing

Promotional Blurb: A smart, funny novel of love, self-acceptance, second chances and blisters. Two misfits walk 2 000km along the Camino to find themselves and, perhaps, each other.

Zoe, a sometime artist, is from California. Martin, an engineer, is from Yorkshire. Both have ended up in picturesque Cluny, in central France. Both are struggling to come to terms with their recent past – for Zoe, the death of her husband; for Martin, a messy divorce.

Looking to make a new start, each sets out alone to walk two thousand kilometres from Cluny to Santiago de Compostela, in north western Spain, in the footsteps of pilgrims who have walked the Camino for centuries. The Camino changes you, it’s said. It’s a chance to find a new version of yourself, and a new beginning. But can these two very different people find themselves? Will they find each other?

In this smart, funny and romantic journey, Martin’s and Zoe’s stories are told in alternating chapters by husband-and-wife team Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist. Two Steps Forward is a novel about renewal – physical, psychological and spiritual. It’s about the challenge of walking a long distance and of working out where you are going. And it’s about what you decide to keep, what you choose to leave behind and what you rediscover along the way.

Optioned for film by Ellen DeGeneres. Source

A camino shell tile on a granite wallMy Thoughts:  This is one for the camino walkers or the ‘camino curious’. Rather than a super-factual walking guide to the Camino in Spain, it couches the trials and tribulations of long-distance walking in the ebbs and flows of a fictional new relationship.

Martin and Zoe have an inauspicious meeting in Cluny, central France before they set out independently to walk South and South-west towards Santiago de Compostela. Zoe intends her final destination to be St Jean Pied de Port on the French side of the Pyrenees while Martin intends to walk all the way to Santiago de Compostela.

What their intentions are and what actually happens are two completely different stories.

I have read Simsion’s work before and did not really enjoy it and, if it the book wasn’t about walking a camino, I would never have grabbed it out of the bargain bin of my local Op Shop.

Camino first, quality writing second!

However, my estimation of him went clear through the roof when I read the jacket blurb to reveal that both he and his wife walked the Chemin/Camino from Cluny to Santiago de Compostela, not once, but twice!  That is around 2 038km over 87 days – twice! All of a sudden these authors had street cred! Or serious walking cred!

I may be a little judgmental, but the fact that both authors had experienced these paths firsthand meant that their writing had a little more authenticity. They had walked the endless hard days and enjoyed the warmth of new friendships and deep conversations.

This is your captain speaking memeThis book will appeal to people who have walked the Camino and wish to reminisce about the Le Puy, del Norte or Primitivo paths. It will also appeal to people who would like an entertaining introduction to caminos in Spain or those who just enjoy a light read.

Prior to the Covid19 pandemic, I was due to fly to Spain to walk the Primitivo (plus a couple of other lesser known paths). I have also long dreamed of walking the del Norte route and now, I have the Chemin from Cluny to add to the wish list.

One of these days we will be allowed to travel internationally again and these dreams can come true.

This is a pleasant, easy read. Not world-beating literature, but it rolls along at a steady pace – a bit like a day’s walk – and the vast variety of characters are appealing and credible.

It is not good for those of us with itchy feet! I gave it 7/10.

Graeme Simsion. Source: Text Publishing
Graeme Simsion. Source: Text Publishing

Author bios: Graeme Simsion is the internationally bestselling author of The Rosie Project, The Rosie Effect and The Best of Adam Sharp.

Anne Buist is the Chair of Women’s Mental Health at the University of Melbourne. She has thirty years’ experience in perinatal psychiatry, and works with the legal system in cases of abuse, kidnapping, infanticide and murder. Her Natalie King: Forensic Psychologist series of thrillers are published by Text.

Anne Buist. Source: Text Publishing
Anne Buist. Source: Text Publishing

Author websites: www.graemesimsion.com and www.annebuist.com

Pages:  353

Published: 2017

Publisher: Text Publishing

Available from: Book Depository (from AUD$23.87)

#travelreads  #caminofrances #theway #caminoprimitivo #caminodelnorte #armchairtravel #walkinginfrance #caminodesantiago

 

5 Gorgeous YouTube Clips to Inspire You to Walk a Camino in Spain

A brass shell inlaid in the footpath on the Camino FrancesWe have had a lot of time this year to sit back and think about our lives and how we may live them differently in the future. My wanderlust remains strong and once bans are lifted and it is safe, the first thing I will be doing will be to book my ticket to Madrid, Spain.

Here are five YouTube clips that I hope will communicate the joy of walking in Spain, the wonderful people you meet along the way and the sheer pleasure of being outside in Nature.

Continue reading

The Camino Story. What’s it all about?

A tile representing the shell logo of camino de santiagoThe popularity of walking a camino has gone through the roof over the past five years or so.

What is it, you may ask, and what is the attraction?

In this post I want to tell the camino story. The Who, What, Where, When, Why and How of the crazy passion for tying on your walking shoes, pulling on a backpack and strolling across Spain.

Continue reading

Fat, Fifty & Flabby? How fit do you have to be to walk a Camino in Spain?

A long, straight road on the camino via de la plata in Spain
A long hot road on the camino Via de la Plata

There’s a whole lot of mythology out there about walking a camino in Spain.

To you, it may appear to be an attractive romantic notion – out there strolling across the Spanish countryside, breathing in that fresh country air and restoring yourself at the end of each day with copious quantities of vino tinto.

It may also seem to be something well out of your comfort zone and far above your fitness levels.

But, No!

This post will remove some of the mystique and hopefully a few barriers stopping you lacing up your walking shoes and joining the friendly flow of folk on their way to Santiago de Compostela.

Continue reading

Movie Review: The Way – Does it Really Show What it is Like to Walk a Camino?

Silhouette of a bull against a cloudy blue sky in Spain
Only in Spain…

It took a particularly wet and miserable Autumn day to keep me inside. As a rule I love rainy days as they happen so rarely in Australia and it was the perfect excuse to dust off my well-loved copy of the movie, The Way.

I put my hand up and admit that this is possibly my sixth or seventh viewing of The Way so obviously I am a bit of a fan. It never fails to create a sense of wanderlust and the urge to walk out my back door and just keep going.

But, how accurate is it? Does it really portray the highs and lows of walking the Camino Frances to Santiago de Compostela in north-west Spain? Or is it all glossed over with a thick layer of Hollywood schmaltz?

Continue reading