Two books, recently released, cover the same territory. Not in the geographical sense as one is set in Northern Spain and the other in South-west England. The Salt Path by Raynor Winn and The Only Way is West by Bradley Chermside are both accounts of the authors walks along long-distance footpaths. Not only that but in doing the hikes both authors are changed. As the books cover similar themes but in totally different styles and emphasis I decided to briefly review each in a comparative review.
Having read both I cannot recommend one over the other. That would do one of these two well-written books and injustice. It is for you to decide which to read but I would recommend both.
The Salt Path by Raynor Winn
After having their home and livelihood repossessed Raynor Winn and her husband Moth have nowhere to go. As they leave their farm behind they are effectively homeless. With a degenerative disease for which there is no cure, it seems the future is bleak. Indeed it seems there is no future.
That is until they hit upon the idea of walking the South-west Coast Path; all 630 miles of it from Minehead in Somerset to Poole in Dorset. For the duration of the walk, they do not need a home as their financial situation dictates that they will need to take a tent and wild camp along the way.
An account of such a journey could descend into a monotonous recounting of each day’s walk. Raynor avoids such a pitfall by not only writing about the characters along the way but also how they discover more about themselves and their resilience in the face of hardship. Moth battles his illness as much as the steep climbs that are an integral part of a coastal walk. Raynor herself slowly comes to terms with all that life has thrown at the couple and discovers a new outlook on life, long before the path ends.
The author has taken care that the narrative is not morose although it does start off in a rather melancholic vein. It is as much about the walk as the path and those who walk it as about the battle with a desperate and depressing situation.
The Only Way is West by Bradley Chermside
When a €20 note is given to Brad Chermside in Corfu with an email address scribbled on it he sends an email hoping it will lead to a lasting relationship. He gets no answer until, two years later, with several failed relationships and a job his heart is not in he makes the decision to walk the Camino de Santiago de Compostela a journey of some 800 kilometres. As he is about to set off the email he sent to the €20 note girl is answered. Amazingly she lives close to the Pilgrim Path and together they set up a kind of blind date.
However, Brad’s reason for setting out is not a blind date but a desire to “find himself” and sort his life out. The hope of finding everlasting love is an added bonus. Along the way, he not only examines his “inner self” and begins to sort out what matters in life but he also meets a multitude of colourful characters. These fellow pilgrims seem to come from all corners of the globe and broaden his outlook.
Eventually, he does meet Natalia, the €20 girl. Does he find the deep and lasting relationship he so craves and is hoping for? To tell you would spoil the ending; you will just have to read the book.
The book is written in a way that provokes thought in the reader while at the same time causing them to smile or, indeed, laugh out loud. I smiled, chuckled and guffawed my way through the book and was reluctant to put it down.
Disclosure notice: Some of the links in the text of this post are affiliate links. That means I get a small payment should you click on the link and subsequently make a purchase. This is at no extra cost to you. These links are identified by the “£” sign in brackets (£) after the link.