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'A light-hearted account almost disguises the grit',
This review is from: Red Tape and White Knuckles: One Woman's Motorcycle Adventure through Africa (Paperback)
There's always two ways to react to motorcycle travel books: one is to the journey itself - usually awe inspiring in some way - and the other is to the writing. Lois Pryce's second book about motorcycle travel (I haven't read the first one yet) is a nicely written, easy-to-read contribution to this genre. But it tells a tale of almost unimaginable nerve and endurance across some of the most difficult terrain and politically frightening countries you could think of. In our patriarchal world men not only take centre-stage but manage to convince most people that the male way of being in the world is some kind of norm. For example, Ted Simon's accounts of riding around the world seem to be the story of a person's adventures rather than of a man's. So Lois Pryce's books remind us that riding a motorbike, like most other things, is gendered: in Muslim Algeria the man pumping petrol into her motorbike looks away from her once he realises this is a woman out in public, in other places she has to pretend that it's a man and not her who is riding the bike, and in the Congo when she is stuck on the back of a train for most of a day with her strapped-down bike and surrounded by stoned Congolese soldiers with Kalashnikov's the defining feature of the event is to do with gender - and power.
Lois is not afraid to be critical and poke fun at some of the tedious characters she encounters or travels with but she also writes movingly about some of the positive and generous spirited people she meets in war-ravaged countries like Angola. Some chapters, mainly dealing with the Congolese and Angolan parts of the journey are genuinely scary.
Overall the style is light and humour is never far away. We don't get the personal introspection nor the lingering political and social analysis of Ted Simon, so the book feels less serious than some but Lois is skilled at telling the story and the ending, which in this kind of book always runs the danger of being an anti-climax, is moving.
The book and the journey itself merge. As the book jacket says, the author is equipped with formidable strength of character and an immense passion for life. I'm not the first to say this, but it is a good read. Having finished it, I do wonder why the seriousness was kept at bay so much. I would have thought that the experience earned it.
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