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Robert France's wonderful book 'Along the Way' has received another glowing review. This one is from the International Journal of Religious Tourism and Pilgrimage:
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 reader is challenged to reflect on the depth and meaning of the ‘Camino’ against the expertise or ‘Camino Cultural Capital’ of the author.
Robert France completes an exhaustive literature review of previous studies and commentaries on the ‘Camino’, past and present, and continuously emphasises how this publication is unique in approach, beginning with the route chosen to complete, the time of year to do it and how the book is written using a thematic approach. The attention paid to architectural detail, coupled with a photographic record, produces something of ‘distinct scholarship’. The keenness of the author’s observation and the images he uses to convey this are reminiscent of the approach taken by Christopher Alexander - the respected American thinker and architect in his book A Pattern Language. The style of writing is a constant weaving of knowledge, facts, personal thoughts, emotions and criticism into a pattern of themes such as adventure, joy, contact and contemplation. The book skilfully combines profound observations with personal reflection so that the author’s journey goes beyond the spiritual and physical. The author quotes Walter Starkie on how a pilgrim tries to collect his memories as a ‘backward journey through time and a forward journey through space’.
The reader is constantly aware of Robert France’s ‘Camino / Cultural Capital’ be it in Architecture, Landscape, Literature, Art, Food, Film, Music or Electronic Games. 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. This inspires interest and curiosity to follow the route. Occasionally, the critique by the author borders on cynicism leaving the reader disillusioned as to what would satisfy him. Yet, eventually Robert France allows himself to express emotions such as the ‘most moving experiences of the entire pilgrimage and one of the most spiritual moments I have ever felt inside a church’. Frankly, he admits he prayed for the first time in years. This allows for a wider audience to participate in what is powerful about the ‘Camino’ and in particular this book. Robert France’s dedication and determination is never-ending, evidenced in particular, when four years after the pilgrimage he engaged in the ‘Portal of Glory’ ritual with a replica of it in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. ‘The long pilgrimage of places and pages is over.’
By: Frances McGettigan. Lecturer in Tourism, Department of Hospitality, Tourism and Leisure Studies, Athlone Institute of Technology, Athlone, Co. Westmeath. Ireland.
© International Journal of Religious Tourism and Pilgrimage ISSN 2009-7379
Volume 4(1) 2016, Available at: http://arrow.dit.ie/ijrtp/