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Crossing the Heart of Africa: An Odyssey of Love and Adventure Paperback – December 7, 2010
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"The story is not only a modern-day travelogue, but also a great historical account of a charming trailblazer, and the story of a modern-day relationship." Miami Herald)
"Smoothly written chronicle that's part travelogue, part contemporary relationship commentary, and all heart." (Kirkus Reviews)
"Like David Grann's The Lost City of Z, this is two stories, of an explorer and of the author's search for him, and both are compelling. Recommended for...anyone who has ever been or wants to go on a quest." (Library Journal)
"Smith weaves a fine tale...if you love the Great Age of Adventure, you'll love this book" (Lonely Planet)
SOCIETY OF AMERICAN TRAVEL WRITERS WESTERN WRITING AWARDS WINNER: GOLD PRIZE (TRAVEL) (No Source)
BANFF MOUNTAIN BOOK COMPETITION WINNER: SPECIAL JURY MENTION (No Source)
AMERICAN SOCIETY OF JOURNALISTS AND AUTHORS AWARDS BEST-BOOK WINNER: MEMOIR (No Source)
“Grogan would have been a fitting protagonist for Shakespeare ... an insightful and often uproarious romp. ... memorable ... sheds light on Grogan’s monumental feat, which is worthy of a revisit.” (Boston Globe)
“Julian Smith, a talented travel writer, evokes Grogan, his adventures and his world with both insight and panache.” (Washington Post)
“An extraordinary love story . . . [an] absolutely fascinating adventure” (GoNomad.com)
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Top Customer Reviews
The urgent motivation for Grogan was to prove to his prospective father-in-law that he (Grogan) would be a worthy husband to that gentleman's daughter. Smith parallels Grogan's trek with his own in 2007, as far as he could go until forced by good sense and a healthy survival instinct to stop in conflict-ridden Sudan; in contrast to Grogan, he had something to prove only to himself. His account of Grogan's hazardous trip is half the strength of this intriguing narrative; the other half is his honest, unrelenting self-examination before his own commitment in marriage to his fiancé Laura, who, like Grogan's Gertrude, anxiously awaited his return.
Smith is a successful travel writer with four guidebooks to his credit, and whose work has appeared in a number of national publications. With Crossing the Heart of Africa, his clear, precise and subtly humorous prose style is smoothly ramped up as he deals with the absorbing adventures of the two travelers, whose stories are seamlessly interwoven, and are both compelling and highly entertaining.
Smith is a master of metaphor. The book is alive with original, photographically vivid word images. His accommodations are often unusual: the walls of one room "end raggedly two feet below the roof, as if gnawed by a giant rodent." African animals can tend toward the exotic. One night his flashlight beam catches an armadillo, "a scaly silver football rooting in the underbrush." A warthog "has an almost vindictive homeliness.Read more ›
The book is indeed a very interesting read with three story lines intermixed: the original trip back at the turn of the 20th century, the author's trip in/around 2007 and the development of the relationship between the author and his girlfriend/fiancee/wife (approx. 2000 - 2008).
Reading the kindle version of this book, I am troubled with the large amount of typos in the kindle version. About once per page two or more words are combined (just "merged") into one. Examples are "Theconstant low-level ..." (location 2418), "The kingdom appearedprosperous ..." (2149), "have been seen to sharpensticks with their teeth" (1988), etc. In this time and age of spell checkers I would have expected far less such problems...
about their difficulties and not about the people and animals. I didn't finish it.
As a writer who spends way too much of his time fact-checking hotel prices and bus departure times for my four guidebook titles -- while my own book-length narrative percolates on the back burner -- I sympathize with Smith's journey from guidebook jockey to storyteller. I understand why, after penning successful Moon guides to Ecuador and the US southwest, he gave it all up to try his hand at a narrative tale. In Crossing the Heart of Africa, he succeeds brilliantly.
The book weaves together three compelling, efficiently-spun narratives, simultaneously relating (1) the exploits of Ewart Grogan, a little-known bad-ass Victorian-age adventurer, (2) the author's modern trip in Grogan's footsteps, and (3) the story of Smith's relationship with his wife, who awaits him at home with wedding bells.
Perhaps I enjoyed this book so much because of the many parallels with my own life, so that it was partly my story; or perhaps the storytelling really is that good; or maybe it was because I read most of it while flying on airplanes, where one appreciates everything and weeps more freely. In any case, Smith grabbed and held me for 320 compelling pages, leaving me both grateful and inspired, and, with the final hopeful line, a tear in my eye. I also learned a few things.
For instance, Smith informs, "`To travel,' originally meant to 'suffer.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
When reading a travel book, the last thing I want is chapters on the author's own romance compared to the content. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Fun Dad
Book weaves together three stores, A Victorian explorer (very interesting), a 21st century free-lance writer (interesting) and the whinny, self-serving story of the writer's love... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Thuringer
Great idea to use 25 year old Grogan's 1898 trip across Africa as a counterpoint to Smith's own attempt to duplicate that journey. Read morePublished 11 months ago by DH Koester
I wanted to yell at the character first find your own life! GROW up and quit whining. We all have a process but come on, he was so self absorbed, and immature I thought he'd gone... Read morePublished 11 months ago by reading renee
In one of the greatest tales of African adventure, a young Grogan walks the length of Africa for the love of a woman. He survives by his wits and strength. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Nic Pickford