Two Steps Forward
By Graeme Simsion, and Anne Buist
Zoe, a sometime artist, is from California. Martin, an engineer, is from Yorkshire. Both have ended up in picturesque Cluny, in central France. Both are struggling to come to terms with their recent past – for Zoe, the death of her husband; for Martin, a messy divorce.
Looking to make a new start, each sets out alone to walk two thousand kilometres from Cluny to Santiago de Compostela, in northwestern Spain, in the footsteps of pilgrims who have walked the Camino (the Way) for centuries. The Camino changes you, it’s said. It’s a chance to find a new version of yourself, and a new beginning. But can these two very different people find themselves? Will they find each other?Tweet
This is a story about two people who don't know each other deciding to walk the Camino. Their paths cross early on and the intertwined love story develops from there.
The reading is easy and entertaining. It's interesting to learn about the French and Spanish caminos, the various routes and the philosophy of generosity and care along the way.
I found the start of the story a little hard to get into. But eventually the action picks up and the characters develop as the story progresses. The authors demonstrate how the walk appeals to different people and that there are many ways/distances to walk. It is not a religious pilgrimage for everyone. There are many reasons people undertake this adventure.
The writing is readable and engaging, and I grew to love the main characters. It is an absorbing read with many layers.
There were a few areas in the book I found confusing, like the expensive Camino shell broach Zoe declines to buy at the start but yet she has it with her a few chapters on. Keeping track of all the different characters was hard to do sometimes, too. I felt there were too many minor ones and the authors perhaps could have simplified this.
I also found the on and off and on and off again interaction between Martin and Zoe a little contrived. He leaves her, she leaves him, they change their minds. Would this work out in the real world, is it believable? Not sure.
Overall, this is a worthwhile read which just might trigger your interest in walking The Way.
Following the very recent, and very sudden death of her husband, Zoe decides to travel from the US to Europe to look up an old college friend. She soon feels the need for some respite from her rather suffocating friend who is intent on matchmaking and, in search of solitude, impulsively announces that she is going to walk some of the Chemin, the pilgrimage trail which ultimately leads to Santiago de Compostela. Totally unprepared and not even very fit, she gathers together some fairly unsuitable basic equipment and sets off. Martin, an engineer from the UK is recovering from an acrimonious divorce and also feels the need to get away. He, however, is much better prepared, having invented a cart which he hopes will provide an alternative to carrying a backpack on long treks, and has meticulously prepared his Camino walk months in advance in order to road test the product. Although the two of them do not know each other, they are both doing the walk out of season when the trail is fairly quiet and they inevitably meet up and cross paths occasionally. This is also true for many of the other people who they meet along the way. The book is written almost like a blog with the two main characters each taking alternate chapters. It catalogues their journeys of self-discovery
I thought this was a great book. If someone had told me that it was a true story, a genuine blog turned into book form, I would have believed them. It transpires that the two authors, a real-life literary couple, have actually completed long distance walks on the Camino on two occasions, which is probably why it felt so authentic. Zoe and Martin are very plausible and their characters are developed well, leaving me with the feeling that I had known them for a long time and desperately wanted things to work out for both of them. The format of the book, with each being given the chance to tell their own story, allows us to be voyeurs on their relationships with those they have left at home – these also rang true. The characters who they meet along the way are a wonderful bunch of people. Many of the pilgrims that they encounter pop up time and time again during the course of the journey, an eclectic bunch, matched in eccentricity by the locals who provide the very necessary support en route – accommodation, food etc. This book is not only informative, providing a very real insight into life as a modern-day pilgrim on the Camino, it also has humour, wit, suffering, despair and even romance. Ultimately it is a journey of self-discovery.
I am struggling to find anything negative to say about the book. I loved it. I suppose Zoe’s character was slightly less plausible than Martin’s in the sense that she upped sticks and set off such a short time after her husband died and then, even with all that solitary walking and time alone, did not really seem to grieve. Is that realistic - I suspect not but heigh-ho, it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book one little bit.
This book is partly a travelogue and partly a romantic comedy. I think it should appeal to everyone and would recommend it unequivocally, although I concede that I do have a vested interest as I have always been fascinated by the Camino. I had not come across either of the authors before but will certainly look out for them in the future.
An unusual book. Written by two authors, alternating chapters. This is a gentle story of a long distance walk that gives the participants time to think through life’s problems. Each character brings troubles with them as they begin but, as with their too heavy backpacks, they gradually shed both their physical and mental excess baggage. Enjoy the journey with them!
I enjoyed this book. It's written by two characters, from their own perspectives and the writers both have a good insight into people. It might seem that "not a lot happens" in the book, but it's an entertaining read, due to the people we "meet" during the journey along the pilgrim route.
It has gentle humour and the writers combine together well to produce a story that feels very "real".
The best armchair travelling I have ever made. An enjoyable trip through a part of France and Spain in the company of two life damaged young people who are looking to solve their problems. They each write alternate chapters with their thoughts and progress on their walking the chemin de Saint-Jacques de Compostelle. My only reservation is that their voices are not distinct enough and unless you carefully look at the title name of the chapter you can easily mistake Zoe for Martin.
my husband who read the book after me was not impressed finding the dialogues wooden and a lot of
Review from Hunstanworth Village Hall Book Group:
Although the characters' chapters are written by different authors we didn't feel the writing was too contrasting and (alternating chapters) did not distract from the story.
The story was fairly predictable in that a romance seemed likely to ensue after a rocky start between Martin and Zoe - and we could see the story being developed into a great rom/com movie...girl dislikes boy / boy gets girl / boy loses girl...and so on.
There's a fairly large cast of minor characters and the majority of these are fellow travellers, and whilst it's enjoyable to see how they play out within the story it would have been great to have had a little more insight into the people who live and work on the Camino route.
The map that appears at the start of the novel is helpful initially to get an idea of the distances travelled, and the start and end points of the journey.
One slight negative was that we felt Martin's character didn't quite ring true (as a Brit) as some of the things he said were not things we'd heard before, but other than this he was a very likeable character and we particularly liked his relationship with his daughter.
The book has certainly inspired some of us to consider doing part of the journey to Santiago de Compostela (the end point) and one member who has done parts of the walk - most recently just a couple of months ago - felt the story accurately portrays repeated meetings between disparate groups and individuals
Rating: Although only a few made the book group (as holiday season is upon us) many provided their scores in their absence and overall the scores averaged 3.5 out of 5.
A higher score (4) came from the member who has recently walked on the Way.
A novel about two people who have diverse backgrounds but come together on the Camino Way – a walking pilgrimage where both have ‘baggage’ to sort out from their previous lives.
It is commendable that both Zoe and Martin did not rush into an affair as they each had to work through their difficulties and accept what had brought them there.
A clever story with alternate chapters written by each person. Sole searching and do we really know ourselves?
An enjoyable book to recommend.
Margaret from Book Swap, Durham
At first I found this tale about two people walking the Camino a little slow, but once I became more involved in their life stories I started to enjoy the novel more. This is the first novel I have read which has been written by two people and I thought that the dual narrator format reflected the two authors very neatly. All in all quite an intriguing book. Would recommend.
Initially I found this story of two people walking part of the Camino (one of the various pilgrims routes across Spain and France to Santiago de Compostela) rather lightweight and wasn't sure I would enjoy it. However, after a few chapters, I found I was drawn into the book and began to enjoy the way the two characters told their story. It is basically a story of self-discovery and finding companionship and love, told by two people whose story is told in alternating chapters. I was interested in reading this book as I know several people who have walked parts of the Camino and found that the atmosphere created in the book - particularly exploring both the loneliness and cameraderie of walking the pilgrim's route - helped me picture their journeys. All in all, a surprisingly enjoyable, easy read, which did actually make me ponder whether I would also like to explore some of the routes described.
It took me some while to enjoy this book: at first I thought it was merely a travelogue with characters, and I disliked the two author format. By half way through I discovered I was enjoying the book, liked both Zoe and Martin and had accepted a different author for each character. The book is not intellectually challenging, is lightweight, does not have a multi-layered structure but, nevertheless, it does have its own charm. Gradually, and piecemeal, throughout the story we are fed information about the background, families and life stories of Zoe and Martin; these two characters become more rounded, more believable. A third dominant character in the book is Martin's cart: it is given a disproportionate word space in the book, with Martin becoming known as the 'Buggy Man'. It is obvious the writers know the Chemin/Camino well, the landscape is drawn in the narrative, and even non-walkers come to have an appreciation of the difficulties, and sense of achievement, of such a demanding expedition. To walk the Chemin/Camino is more than a physical journey: it is a spiritual experience, not necessarily religious, but the 'Way' in which each walker discovers more about themselves, makes sense of their history and how to deal with solitude. Throughout the centuries it has been a Pilgrimage route. There is a camaraderie of fellow walkers, who drop in and out of the story, offering support and championship. The book would make a relaxing holiday read.
I loved this book! It’s a delightful read, simple but engaging and also funny. The story follows two main characters as they walk the Camino for different reasons, their paths crossing each other and a cast of colourful characters. It’s inspiring without being overly sentimental or emotional (I did cry though!). The fact that the authors have walked the Camino twice themselves, lends the story authenticity. It’s informative and interesting though perhaps a little far-fetched in places and the ending perhaps a little too pat but who doesn’t like a happy ending? Whether or not you have ambitions to walk the Camino, read this.
What a lovely, easy book to read. It's slow and gentle and like long distance walking it starts off a bit ploddy (if that's even a word) and gathers momentum as it goes. It was interesting to read about the Camino which the authors have walked and apparently describe accurately; the characters met along the way are all delightful in their own way and the story of Martin and Zoe's developing relationship holds it all together very neatly. It's charming and thoughtful and I would recommend it as a nice holiday read.
An easy and enjoyable read. It is a novel, but the two authors (husband and wife) have walked the Camino twice and draw on their experiences and route to describe the story. The two main characters Martin and Zoe each take a chapter to tell their story as they walk across France and Spain. It is a travel book and a book of human frailty. Many of the walkers on the trail seems to be walking, not only to physically challenge themselves, but to sort out their minds. It is an uplifting tale of how people help one another in times of need. It made me want to set off and emulate their fantastic achievements.