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on 23 November 2012
This is a very fine account of the experiences of father and daughter partnership Peter and Natasha Murtagh on their pilgrimage to Santiago. I had already read some of Murtagh's very impressive previous work and have done 5 Caminos myself and was looking for an Irish perspective on this very special journey. I had some early misgivings (not shared by any of the other reviewers) but was eventually won over, and found this a very worthwhile read. It both brings back memories for those who've already walked The Way and really sets the scene for those considering it.

Murtagh starts with a major historical gaffe on page 6 when he states that Irish stone carvings dated between 2000 and 3000 BC occurred at the same time as "Homer was writing the Odyssey". For an award-winning journalist (one of his books is about Greece) and who's writing here shows a huge interest in history, this is quite poor. Homer only dates back to the 8th century BC! Similarly his opening chapter where he tries to forge a link between early Irish pilgrimage (especially Croagh Patrick) and Santiago is laboured and totally unconvincing. I felt this chapter was superfluous (but his research could be better used in another book maybe on Irish Pilgrimages?)

The real book starts in France and here the format of both Peter and Natasha alternating their thoughts proves utterly engrossing. In my opinion there was too much historical detail in Peter's accounts, with more information on Church architecture, year of construction, area of stain glass etc, etc than is really necessary. Having already read a lot of the history of the area as well as the Camino itself I found that I was skipping parts of the Dad's accounts, which I found slightly dry, and preferring the more personal and less calculated thoughts of the teenage daughter!

As the book progressed (basically following a diary-like account of each day) Peter starts to express more and more of his own personality and describes more of his fellow pilgrims (the people you meet on the Camino remain in your minds eye for much longer than the buildings) Natasha gradually displays a growing maturity, and their relationship is the real highlight of this book, and any father would feel proud to have helped raise a daughter like her.

The normal occurrences of the Camino - meeting weirdos, blisters, getting lost, losing things, making new friends, nuns, atheists, cheap food etc. are all described in a gentle and generous way. Many of these made me chuckle as I recalled similar incidents myself. There were a couple of statements made by Murtagh senior that I wish to correct to clarify things for potential peregrinos. Saint Jean Pied de Port is not the official starting point of the Camino. It has become the accepted point for most walking the French Way but there is NO official starting point. So you can start anywhere you want! A Dubliner living in Auckland I walked with started at the Guinness Brewery in Dublin which made a lot of sense but not for the reason you might expect. Non-Irish readers may not know that the Brewery's address is St. James' Gate !

Murtagh also voiced the opinion that the only real Caminos had to travel from the east into Galicia. This shows a lack of awareness of the dozen or so paths to Compostela recognised by the authorities. 3 of my walks were the Camino Ingles which comes south from Ferrol, the Caminho Portuguese which fairly obviously comes from the south, and the Camino Muxia (via Finisterre) which comes from the north and then west (and which provided me with no fewer than 3 certificates!). I have one or two other slight quibbles which is why I've docked a star in my rating.

Many will find this book ideal and the historical detail will be a welcome addition for those who need to fill in some background. The authors are lovely people and some of their personal revelations are really moving so this book works on any number of levels. Natasha verbalises her feelings about the Camino in the most articulate way, and any one reading this who was wavering in their intention to walk one of the Caminos will be more tempted than ever.

I'm not going to compare "Buen Camino" with any of the other pilgrimage accounts I've read. There is no definitive book on the Way of St. James and the best book of all is the one you'll bring back with you in your head when you do the Camino for yourself!

See John Brierly's guides for info on all the walks (the French Way and in latter times the Camino Portuguese are the ONLY ones that have the overcrowding from Sarria frowned upon by the Murtaghs and most other long distance peregrinos). 2 other books you may find rewarding are "Sacred Tracks" by James Harper (a leisurely study of 2 millenia of Christian pilgrimage) and "A Walk in the Dark Ages" by Frank Delaney. The latter is a most scholarly and beautifully written imaginary account of Irish monks pilgrimages from Skellig Michael to Istanbul and many points between. Santiago is not included as the setting predates the Camino's origins.
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on 25 June 2017
I am wavering on what to say about this book. The whole idea of a father/daughter team walking the Camino is interesting, and both Natasha and Peter come across as interesting people, but the way the book is structured-- it feels as if they have taken bits out of two separate books and mashed them together. Don't get me wrong- the writing and content in and off itself is brilliant, but in the long run, one feels it would do better as two separate books. Don't let this get you down-- anyone planning to walk 'The Way' can get a lot from this book.
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on 30 April 2011
I heard the authors interviewed on Ryan Turbidy and was fascinated to hear their story. They captured the spirit if the pilgrimage, both the people they met on their way and the towns and countryside they passed through. I did not appreciated what big business the pilgrimage was especially the last 100 km. The story told from the two different points of view worked very well. I would recommend this book.
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on 3 October 2017
I was looking forward to reading this book as I will be completing a section of the Camino in a month's time with my sons. I agree with some of the reviews here that it was very much like a diary, but I liked this format as it felt like the authors were documenting their days as they passed. They had a wonderful experience, as I'm sure we will when we get going. What really annoyed me though - and the reason I'm giving a low rating - is the snobbish, elitist attitude of the authors once they reached Sarria. Natasha was especially scathing and I hope that time and experience since the book was published has tempered this. Peter too was dismissive of the pilgrims starting from Sarria but redeemed himself slightly when he met the student nurses who were walking for charity. As another reviewer said, some people are not able - be it physically or financially or otherwise - to complete what the authors deem a 'full' Camino. It's taking a lot of effort, saving, organising and planning for us to take this much anticipated trip...I hope everyone we meet are like people I've met on previous Caminos - no snobs please!
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on 2 December 2015
A lovely piece of work, made all the better by the harmony of the two voices writing it; one the polished professional writer with a love of history and people, and the other his daughter, just starting out in the world of words and walks.
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on 19 January 2013
I liked the 'story' but was also looking for more about the how which wasn't what the book was about . Itbwas however a very moving story and enjoyable throughout.
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on 6 June 2012
I have just recently returned from Northern Spain where I met up with my daughter undertaking the camino, meeting up in Arzua, we then finally joined her as she completed the journey in Santiago de Compostela, having attended the pilgrim's mass and witnessing at first hand the atmosphere I was somewhat overwhelmed by it all, and have to admit that I would myself like to now consider making the journey from St Jean Pied de Port in the French Pyrenees to Santiago and then on to Finisterre.
Upon my return home I purchased this book and found it thoroughly absorbing, both with the historical background simplified so that it was understandable, and also I discovered in its pages how much I related to Peter Murtagh and could easily have imagined myself with my own daughter in his enviable position of being able to undertake "The Way of St. James".
I read the book in a matter of days as I was unable to put it down once started, and over the past few days my younger daughter has been staying with us and she also read it from cover to cover, and found it gave a fascinating insight into the walk and what it means to so many differing people depicted in the pages, she would also consider undertaking the walk but work constraints would not allow this and sadly in these times of recession leaving a secure position and being able to return some two months later is a non starter.
The book is really a must read for anyone wishing to undertake the camino de Santiago for its on the ground and reality value, it gives in quite simple terms two views of what it is all about, in Peter's case being in his fifties it gave me confidence (I am 64), that age is certainly not a barrier as long as you are reasonably fit and are sensible in your initial approach, and certainly in the first few days that is important, the second view is from Natasha who at eighteen years of age shows an incredible maturity, but also has that teenage sense of fun, challenge and aspiration, it is also refreshing to see though her eyes and read her own personal thoughts about everything around her including the relationships she formed with fellow pilgrims, this illustrates to me how much her generation are put down merely relating to her age group, when I know full well that a small minority of that generation create a stigma that has to be borne by the vast majority of sensible, fun loving kids, who are after all the future and should be treasured as such.
The book whether you intend to undertake the camino or not is thoroughly readable and enjoyable, and certainly one that is a good companion to John Brierley in your preparations should you decide to undertake this epic and memorable journey, recommended.
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on 3 August 2013
Having done the camino myself and in fact living in one if the cities on the camino ( Pamplona) I was looking forward to the premise of insights and views of the camino particularly from the interesting angle of the father - daughter aspect. What emerged was a rather dreary account of their walk, (how interesting these Spanish people! I had a pain in my leg! We walked a lot one day! I lost my camera and then had it returned! We had a camino family! We drank a lot of cheap wine and beer and got drunk rather often!) This together with the clumsy alternating writing styles of both authors and the perpetual history lesson (Here's an interesting fact!) mad the book tiresome.
A huge disappointment and utterly uninspiring. Avoid!
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on 13 August 2015
Very interesting and a good feel feel for the Camino experience. For me there was a little much of the authors personal lives and certainly the resentment that Natasha showed towards pilgrims who only walked from Sarria bordered on snobbish. Many are not physically capable of doing more and Peter tempered this view with his description of the nurses from Ireland.
The Camino should teach tolerance and I guess many of the pilgrims who only did the short walk still had a sense of great achievement.
I hope this is not to critical of what is a very interesting book that is certainly worth reading.
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on 27 November 2011
This is a wonderful book that so vividly describes the wonders, beauties, fun, laughs, people, pain, emotions and torments that make up the camino journey. I read this book just before undertaking the journey last August and it helped enormously in my preparations and expectations. I re-read the book when I returned home and could only then fully understand the deep emotions that the camino uncovers in people. I would highly recommend this book to anyone contemplating the journey or to those who just want to find out a little bit more about the Camino. Its a special journey, it will grab hold of you and it will take you back again and again!!!
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