7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
No pretence, tells it like it is, sparing us the hyperbole.,
By A Customer
This review is from: Johnny Ginger's Last Ride (Paperback)
We live in an era of rapid globalisation in a shrinking world in which transportation has made the exotic accessible and few of the earth's corners unexplored. As a consequence, it is now rare to find a travel book without some sort of eccentric quest as its backbone or raison d'etre. Tom Fremantle has written a refreshingly accessible and honest account of his cycle ride from England to Australia, in which he plays down the enormity of the feat, while treating armchair travellers to a vivid descriptions and easy-reading . He had a number of reasons for attempting this quest, a task which nowadays raises few eyebrows and barely makes it beyond the local free newspaper. Giving substance and backgound to the story and his journey is the contrast of his seafaring ancestor Charles, who is imortalised by the port in Western Australia to which he gives his name, and the eponymous Johnny Ginger of the book title, a man who in his own lifetime never left the village of his birth, but whose perceptions of life and people are far sharper than many of the backpackers that Tom encounters, 'doing' the world in their year off. Johnny Ginger, despite his self-imposed geographical limitations, was able to appreciate the diversity of humankind, and this trait is evident in the author's exploration and acceptance of the numerous religious practices that he encounters on his journey. The narration is well-balanced, we are treated to the highs and lows of the trip, but the author does not prolong the agony of encounters with over -zealous border guards, freezing or oppressively hot climates, or his own bouts of depression brought on by the lack of home comforts which are the stock stories of today's backpacker. These are all reported, but always put in perspective, like the time in China when he realises after giving a talk about his journey to date at the local elite boarding school, that probably half of the pupils would never even travel outside the region. This promptly snaps him out of his mood of self-pity. The narrative is filled with astute observations like this, and this is one of the book's strengths. Despite the modern way of collecting 'been there, done that, got it cheap' stories, Tom Fremantle has traversed several countries, continents and cultures, while sharing them with us in an almost first-handed but modest way. We are able to share his encounters with the whole range of people he meets en route, which are multipled by the fact of his travelling solo, and the highs and lows of his moods which are influenced by miscellanies like his current state of health and heights of descriptive extravagance by surrounding scenery. The book extends to 460 pages but is an easy and consistent read, with few, if any, stodgy patches. And lest we forget, the boy did cycle all the way to Australia, so there is quite a bit on which to report!