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Customer reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars

on 27 September 2014
A thoroughly enjoyable piece of travel / autobiography / history / myth-investigating / biography. Rhys' book is not easy to categorise, but is all the more interesting for that. He is a personable narrator who gently and almost imperceptibly leads the reader into the world of his avatar, John Evans. Before long, it hardly matters that this three foot high felt figure speaks, has opinions, drives trucks and interacts wih fans and journalists. Suspend your disbelief as you enter this world and you will find it an enchanting, idiosyncratic and unique one. Quite unlike anything I have read before, I will return again to this. On the back of reading it, I have purchased the DVD of the film of this trip and have the music album on rotation on Spotify. Nice one, Gruff!
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on 15 September 2014
Rhys is a charming, witty and clear-headed companion following what is, frankly, obviously, a fool's mission, but he succeeds brilliantly in making John Evans' life and journey, with all its despairs and disasters, engaging and fascinating. The accompanying app is worth £2.99 of anyone's money and the album is probably his best non-SFA work to date. The whole project appears to have been meticulously thought through and I'll be ordering the DVD too shortly.
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on 8 June 2014
Hilarious, educational, eccentric and charming - a fascinating journey of discovery that gets you thinking deeper about different cultures and how no matter which one you adopt, or immerse yourself in or are born into, they all matter. Loved this!
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on 18 May 2015
Much enjoyed Gruff Rhys's style of writing. His idea to recreate the journey undertaken by his 18th century ancestor to discover the truth or not about the existence of the Madogwys (pale-faced, Welsh speaking American Indians) was inspired, particularly his decision to take with him an effigy of his relative. I wish I could have been at some of the gigs he set up along the way.
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on 15 August 2016
Gruff is my hero.
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on 20 November 2014
Engaging story of both John Evans' adventures in the 1700s, as well as Gruff Rhys' adventures following his ancestor's footsteps---poignant story told very well. I highly recommend it!!!
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on 12 December 2014
A great story, engagingly written and funny. Read it. Gruff has got to be one of the greatest living Welshmen!
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on 18 July 2015
Film and music to make you happy!
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on 2 July 2014
Absolutely fantastic .it complements the film so well
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on 18 July 2014
An exceptionally well written book offering a most concise, well-informed and insightful summary of John Evans' journey. Gruff's modern-day recreation of the journey and his musical tour ties in perfectly, with just the right amounts of each story.

Gruff also commendably refrains from any form of speculation concerning the Madoc myth, sticking faithfully to the facts as we know them. Contrast, for example, with Ellen Pugh's "Brave his Soul" (which is full of unsubstantiated speculation) and also the work of any number of other dreamers who have put two and two together to make five.

As a Madoc agnostic who has researched this corner of history in detail, the only things I've uncovered which aren't in Gruff's book are firstly some insights from Nicolas de Finiel's "An Account of Upper Louisiana". De Finiel's was living in St Louis at the same time as Evans and his account came not from first hand experience but from interviewing explorers who had recently returned from the titular region. One interviewee (who isn't named) is particularly taken by the sophistication of Mandan pottery and believes it suggests pre Columbus contact with Europeans. The interviewee is also keen for the Mandan to be left alone and uncorrupted by the modern world. I can only imagine who the interviewee might be, but I'd be surprised if it was anyone other than Evans. I hasten to add that the archaeology of W. Raymond Wood suggests nothing out of the ordinary with Mandan pottery fragments but if Evans is the mysterious interviewee, it at least suggests there may be a disparity between the official records and what Evans himself believed. Likewise with Evans' letter to Samuel Jones, which was clearly written under the close gaze of Don Trudeau. If the Mandan really were quite sendentary multi-lingual agriculturalists, with bull boats, earth lodges etc, why doesn't Evans at least mention those facts instead of being quite so dismissive? Of course it's absolutely no proof of anything Madoc-related but again it suggests a disparity between Evans' actual observations and the written record. I'm sure he'd have desperately wanted to find evidence of the Madogwys to justify his vast physical and emotional expense on the project, so surely would have wanted to mention anything which hinted at unusualness amongst the Mandan, so the very absence of any such observations in his letter home to me suggests his hand was guided.

Finally I'd also draw attention to the Mandan big bird story, as related by Ben Benson to Alfred Bowers in his book "Mandan cultural and ceremonial organisation". This myth presents an interesting tale of two brothers who spend time on an island across an ocean before getting homesick and "returning" to their Mandan family. Again, viewed scientifically it gets you absolutely nowhere nearer to finding Madoc, but it does place one more tiny tick in the "possible" column, as it fits the Madoc myth far more closely than the Lone Man story. Added to this is the fact that in the 12th century, the extant local culture was the quite homogenous South East Ceremonial Complex (SECC). By the early 13th century, the population of plains bison had shot up and there was a definite move towards tribal specialisation, with the emergence of hunters, farmers etc and some major migrations eg into Mexico. What happened around this time (late 12th and early 13th century) to cause the break-up of the SECC and the almost Darwinian speciation of these groups? I don't know, haven't read that far yet! But again it's another observation worthy of note.

But still, the whole thing is of course shadow chasing and the odds if Madoc having a. Existed b. sailed to America and c. Left a detectable legacy are extremely slim indeed. It's like picking lottery numbers, each tiny remote possibility would have to come good before addressing the next tiny remote possibility, the best anyone can ever hope to do is shorten a few of the odds but you're still looking at something ridiculously improbable.

Anyway, major digression there...! Suffice to say Gruff's book is great and I highly recommend it!
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