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As I Walked Out Through Spain in Search of Laurie Lee (The Autobiographical Trilogy Book 2) Kindle Edition
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I particularly liked the aspects of Spanish life - the religious customs, snippets of language, the food – and the search for 'duende' - the soul of Spain. The romance of the landscape is tempered by aspects of modern Spain with rising unemployment, and the possibility of breaking the pact of silence around Franco's rule. The book sometimes disappears down a rabbit hole of detail, but it meanders back, like the author's walk itself, and the book is all the richer for it.
"I do not want to be that man, the solitary man halfway up the hill never destined to reach the top"
Unlike Lee, Murphy already knows Spain well before his trip begins, is fluent in Spanish, and has a number of friends he can visit along the way. He carries with him a symbolic seashell, as did pilgrims to Santiago de Compostella (he is a lapsed Catholic) to signify his philosophical pilgrimage. His knowledge of the Spanish Civil War and its injustices and barbarity incense him.
He follows Lee's route and principles as far as possible, staying in low budget rooms and keeping off the modern tourist track. He shares his reflections along the way, not only on Spain and Lee, but on how his own life has taken shape.
Murphy is a thoughtful, compassionate and honest writer, much more self-searching and inward-looking than Lee (no doubt partly because he is 30+ years old than Lee at the time of his journey). He is at once diffident and open about his feelings - an engaging combination.
Despite my only experience of Spain outside of books being a city break in Barcelona, I was as engaged with Murphy's descriptions as I was with Lee's. Inevitably they're not quite as poetic, but Murphy is a precise and lyrical writer who chooses his words and phrases them very carefully without his writing ever seeming contrived. Compiling such a detailed and wide-ranging account of his trip, complete with flashbacks and cross-references to other times in his own life and Lee's, must have been a real labour of love, and this book is a huge achievement.
Highly recommended for anyone interested in Laurie Lee and/or Spain, or looking for a constructive approach to moving on after a relationship or career breakdown, whether in middle age, like Murphy's, or at any other time in their life, even youth, as in Lee's case, before moving on to what Murphy charmingly describes as Spain's equivalent to an Indian summer - literal translation: "Little Summer of the Quince", which he's also adopted as the title of his blog.
To read a delightful postcript to his book, visit his blog and read the entry for 2 March 2015. I think the post it links to, should be included in future editions of this book, to encourage others on a similar quest.
It has made me want to visit parts of Spain that I do not know at the moment, although I doubt if I will do as much foot slogging
as the author! This first book holds promise for the future.
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