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3.4 out of 5 stars10
3.4 out of 5 stars
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on 1 August 2001
Mr. Aaronovitch's tale would probably be amusing after a few bottles of red wine whilst munching on ciabata and sun-dried tomatoes. As a book it's slow paced and hard work, unlike the journey, canoeing along canals and tame rivers isn't exactly a death-defying sport. Moaning about the hotels and guest houses he stays in and insulting about the people who offered him accommodation, he doesn't seem to realise that it's a lucky man who can afford the time and money to take a holiday like his. Condescending towards the working class, northerners, holidaymakers and sneering at the others he meets I'm not surprised David didn't have a very interesting trip. His opinionated views on history aren't enough to brighten up the few historical facts which seem to be copied out of leaflets collected on the way and since he failed to complete the journey (his wife had to come and collect the canoe) the book isn't even a story of an achievement. I'm glad he enjoyed his holiday though.
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on 21 September 2001
I bought this book on the strength of the reviews of the hardback version - they must have read a different book to me. Having added the softback version to my wish list 6 months before the publication date maybe my expectations had been built up during the intervening period but I can quite honestly say that this has got to be one of the least humourous books I have read for a long time. The book is so slow that you could actually be sitting in the canoe with David Aaronovitch paddling your way along the waterways of England. I have never before felt the need to write a review about a book but unfortunately this book gets that honour from me !
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on 20 October 2010
I've not much liked David Aaronovitch's writing, though he is clearly a clever bloke with a nice turn of phrase. I bought this because I, like him, have developed a mid-life interest in kayaking and thought it might be fun to do a grand tour in a canoe of some sort. But though I didn't like this book much either, I have a lot more sympathy towards him.

What comes through really strongly, though I am sure unintentionally, is the depth of the author's self-loathing. He writes almost lovingly about his own fat, his bad parenting, and bad husbanding. He self-declaredly set out to write a cheerful book about how nice England is (in contrast to all the nasty books being written by 'people called Nick') but he self-evidently fails - he doesn't like the England he finds very much at all, though every so often he tries to sprinkle some positive fairy dust over his account. He doesn't like the architecture or the interior design, he doesn't like the feral proles, he doesn't like such embourgeoisment as he finds.

Along the way we learn about the shattered relationships that underlie his birth family, and might also underlie his self-hatred. For me, it's hard not to wonder whether his role in the auto-destruction of the Communist Party in this country was an act of revenge, conscious or otherwise, towards the parents who dedicated their lives to th party. Just a thought, of course.
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on 26 January 2002
A tour of English towns arriving quietly by the back door? Unfortunately this book shares the pace of a draw out canal journey and revels in the physical anguish of rowing it. Although the insights into the places visited and the people met are interesting, they are often too brief and too few. One serious chapter connects the title's Jerusalem to the author's Aaronovitch. If you know Bill Bryson try and persuade him to tour England's canals in a canoe, and but his book instead!
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on 26 November 2000
The book tells the story of how its author, a well-known political journalist, planned and made a voyage round Britain by canoe. I first came across this project in the planning stage, when David was seeking advice from the waterways internet group, and I (of course) put in my two penn'orth.
It was with considerable interest, therefore, that I bought the book on publication. It was not quite what I was expecting, but an excellent read despite that. The rivers and canals he travels are the setting, rather than the subject, of his book. They form the context for his thoughts about England, Englishness, his own Jewishness and how his family fits into the history of England.
Don't buy the book if you're looking for a canoeist's guide to the inland waterways. Do buy it for a good, thoughtful read. It's so well written that I had difficulty putting it down.
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on 12 March 2008
Excellent book! Some fascinating stuff in here about England and the English. I enjoy Bill Bryson too - but Aaronovitch does a better job in his assessment of middle England. And he's a better writer too. Some of this has gone over the heads of some of the other reviewers, particularly the one making reference to Jerusalem!
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on 2 October 2000
Travel books have become somewhat stale in the past few years. Everybody seems to be jumping on a bandwagon. At first glance Paddling To Jerusalem could be just another one of those type of books. However, it would be a mistake to class this as one of those efforts.
Few travel writers can conjour up a reason for thier travel dialogues other than it seems like a good idea to travel and write on the back of a publishing contract. David did indeed use the finance for the book to furnish the family with a kitchen but there the similiarity ends. He has much more of a reason for travelling around England in a canoe. It is the sharing of these reasons that makes this such an astonishingly honest account of his journey. Most travelogues give you a feeling that you are an outsider looking on the journey. However, this novel actually makes you feel that you are a travelling companion. Consequently you feel the pain of the effort, the heatbreak when things go wrong and the triumphs of all of the accomplishments this journey holds. Ocassionally riding the rapids and at times simply sitting back enjoying the view as the journey to "Jerusalem" unfolds.
It is, in summary, a journey that I gladly suggest you take. On the canals of England you will be laughing out loud one minute, the next being treated to sharp incisive insights into some of the historic events that have shaped both David and this country of ours.
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on 14 March 2002
David Aaronovitch embarked on a journey for which, by his own admission, he was unsuited, physically as well as by temperament. Often tempted to abandon the project, he eventually completed the project, if not exactly as planned.
DA is honest about his own feelings and his failings thoughout this record. At times J. is very funny, I frequently laughed out aloud. It is also thoughtful and reflective and is well written.
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on 29 March 2005
In contrast with some of the other reviewers, I rather liked this book.
The author tells us of the trials and tribulations of his journey - along the way he tells us of the people he meets, the things he sees, and extra historical facts. In addition, there are some quite personal thoughts about his family background - his parents and grandparents.
The book isn't fast paced - the bloke's in a canoe, after all, but sometimes it does linger a bit too long. He has what some might see as an unhealthy interest in people that have died on the rivers and canals - either shortly before he arrived, or shortly after he left.
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on 12 November 2007
Bought this book despite some indifferent reviews and was very pleasantly surprised. It's a very funny and interesting book describing an fascinating journey. Not quite as good as The Worst Journey in the Midlands: One Man, a Boat and the British Weather by Sam Llewellyn but deservedly five star reading.
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