cat63 (cat63) wrote in 50bookchallenge,

Book 5 for 2010

Pedalling to Hawaii by Stevie Smith. 340 pages.

I should probably start by explaining that the author of this book is not the female poet, but a rather younger (and not dead) bloke from the West Midlands.

While working in Paris in 1991, Stevie Smith feels the need for a challenge and conceives the idea of being the first person to travel around the world entirely by human power.

Three years later, he and his friend Jason set off to pedal around the world - by bicycle on land and in a specially buillt pedal boat across the oceans. As appears to be de rigueur for such expeditions, they set off woefully underprepared both physically and financially. But they go one better than that and are also in massive debt from the construction of their pedal boat Moksha.

They travel down to Portugal by bike, cross the Atlantic in Moksha and then cross America separately - Stevie with his girlfriend Eilbhe by bike and Jason on his own on inline skates. Jason suffers horrific injuries when he is struck by a (possibly drunk) motorist, but eventually recovers sufficiently to rejoin the expedition. Ironically, the damages he receives for this go a long way towards clearing thee outstanding debts of the expedition.

I'm not sure how I feel about this book. It's rather bitty and variable, but then so is the journey it describes. It's also written in present tense, which is not a style I particularly care for. I realise the author probably chose it to try to convey a sense of immediacy and excitement, but that rarely works for me, and it doesn't here either.

When Smith is on form, especially towards the end of the book, he can be very interesting and entertaining, but at times he wanders of on philosophical tangents that, while probably very important to him, seem to me to bog the book down and obscure the narrative. It also seems to devote more pages to the time spent between sections of the actual journey than on the trip itself at times. Again, this reflects the pattern of the journey itself, but can be rather tedious.

The book ends as Stevie leaves the expedition in Hawaii and Jason continues alone. According to the expedition website, Jason was " still on course to complete the circumnavigation in October 2007" but it doesn't seem to have been updated since then.

Important things I learned from this book :-

1. Do not spill boiling water and fruit on your lap when pedalling across the Atlantic with no clothes on. Especially if you're a bloke.

2. If humanly possible, do not get arrested in San Francisco.

Tags: non-fiction

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