Le Road Trip by Vivian Swift is book with many charms. The road trip is an unhurried ramble with her new husband around northwestern France. Two Americans on a honeymoon, on one level. But there are many levels to this book. It is personal, and includes her thoughtful insights on the delights and demands of the country from her long experience with it. And she weaves in some uncommonly wise tips and advice about travel and wry comparisons of journeys with relationships. “Whatever doesn’t make you go home makes you stronger,” she says. Which gives a hint that there are low points to this journey, not just high points. “Travel, as we all know, is a heightened experience,” she says. “That’s why we love it so. But that intensity also has a down side.” She illustrates this with a side trip with her new husband to visit megaliths of Brittany, and all the mishaps and missteps and misunderstandings and misconceptions that can converge on a journey day to make the mood turn negative. Yet there is a sense of joy that permeates the pages of this book, including in her many watercolor illustrations, samples of which appear on the cover. There is a lightheartedness here that I found completely disarming.
História, História, by Eleanor Stanford is a contrast. It is a soul bearing unlike any I have read before. Another American couple, she and her boyfriend join the Peace Corps and are sent to work in the Cape Verde islands off western Africa. They teach school there and gradually get to know local people and learn the culture. It is a fascinating glimpse, connecting language and history and place and what they see happening around them. But all of this is a backdrop to darkness gathering, something happening to her, and affecting the relationship between them. It is such a naked honest account, and completely real.
História, História is one of those books that make it hard to find a next book. It stays with me. I see myself there in some ways, in a situation that is adventurous but stressful. And she makes me understand how there could be kind of high in it for her as things unraveled. Confounding, paradoxical, yet tangible, despite all the obvious negatives. This naked honesty, so uncomfortable that it is painful, also is refreshing. It is a very special book that lets you into her life in ways that most books on true life experiences never do. And the way things work out will surprise you.
História, História can be downloaded here
I read these as a part of the 7 Continents, 7 Billion People, 7 Books Reading Challenge 2013.