The pilgrim road has something for everyone; and as Dr. France makes clear in his stimulating book, the experience of undertaking this four-hundred-mile trek across north-west Spain is invariably a personal and private one, making the pilgrimage also a journey of self-discovery, whatever the traveller’s convictions, faith or interests may be. And here perhaps lies the elusive magic of the Camino, and its enduring power, both ably described in this important book.
Much more than an account of a personal journey, Along the Way differs from most other pilgrimage books in that it is a rich, wide-ranging, critical and reflective analysis of the multifaceted meanings of the Camino. Reviews of the literature concern a variety of responses and attitudes, expectations, experiences and contradictions. Many photos visually enhance the reading experience. The book is very detailed but very readable and will appeal to both those who have travelled their own personal way and want to understand how their unique experience feeds into the bigger picture, as well as those who are interested by a more scholarly analysis of the breadth of this phenomenon. Pick it up, delve into its rich mine and widen your appreciation and understanding of just how the Camino can be interpreted – A fascinating approach.
This is a magnificent thought provoking work, one that succeeds in weaving a historical and contemporary literature review into a travelogue, coupled with an evocative photographic record of the journey… The attention paid to architectural detail, coupled with a photographic record, produces something of distinct scholarship[based] on the keenness of the author’s observations and the images he uses… The book skillfully combines profound observations with personal reflection so that the author’s journey goes beyond the spiritual and physical… The details of observations given, often crafted into stories, engage all the senses, which provokes a transcendental reflection or meditation on the places and artefacts and how they came to be… Robert France’s dedication and determination is never-ending.
To swell your pilgrim heart with pride, according to Robert France in Along the Way, there is a strange and little known disease out there, “Caminophlia”, which attacks very selectively, otherwise and hitherto perfectly “normal” people, upon their return home from walking the camino. I must say I studied all the symptoms very carefully and even checked up on a few of the presenting signs and must confess that I have a very bad case of it. I think I am an incurable case, a chronic Caminophiliac, with symptoms only relieved when I come across other pilgrims. I do fear, however, that some of you may have caught the disease also, but I advise you not to fight it; just let the disease run its course. That is so much more exciting.