ABOUT THE BOOK
For more than a thousand years, the collective imagination – and footsteps! – of millions of people have been captured by the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. Recently, in recognition that the pilgrimage route has functioned as much as a conceptual conduit for establishing medieval culture as it has as a physical pathway for wandering travellers, the Way of Saint James was designated as Europe’s first Cultural Itinerary Route in addition to being recognised by the United Nations as a World Heritage Site. The main Camino route into which the feeder paths converge is known as the Camino Francés, which winds its way across northern Spain for seven hundred kilometres and overlays an earlier pagan route that had followed the celestial Milky Way westward to Finisterre, the end of the medieval European world.
Clicking on the thumbnail images below will cause high-resolution versions of those images to open in another tab or window. Further below is a curated bibliography of other reading.
Read more about Along The Way at its sister site ...
Along the Way: Pilgrimage Scenes From the Camino Francés to Santiago de Compostela is unique among contemporary Camino publications in that it is part travelogue, part literary review, and part cultural commentary. Readers can follow Robert France’s own pilgrimage along his “namesake road” through focused and succinct excerpts from his journal that are accompanied by hundreds of photographs, many of subjects such as architectural appreciation that have seldom been discussed or shown before. The book also provides the first interpretation of the prevalent themes – adventure, joy, contact, and contemplation – covered in the published literature of modern Camino accounts. Finally, Along the Way undertakes the first illumination of the modern cultural phenomena of the Camino through surveying the zeitgeist of the Way.
Along the Way is one of the most richly illustrated narrative books to be produced about the Camino. In addition to the numerous photographs presented therein, the following seventeen images have been selected to highlight the colours of the Way.
Fields between Puenta la Reina and Estella.
Logroño church front glowing in the setting sunlight.
Russet fields between Navarrete and Azorfa.
Castrojeriz glowing in the setting sunlight.
Looking back at hilltop of Castrojeriz from atop Cuesta de Mostilares.
Vibrant paintings in the León Cathedral.
Atmospheric tomb in the León Cathedral.
Astorga Cathedral in the setting sunlight.
Fields between Astorga and Rabanal del Camino.
Stream on the outskirts of Ponferrada.
Forest trackway outside of VIllafranca del Bierzo.
View looking back eastward from O’Cebreiro over cloud-filled valley just walked through.
Remains of the village of Portomarín emerging from the drought-lowered reservoir.
The magnificent Portico de la Gloria leading into the Compostela Cathedral.
Forking of the two pilgrim ways to the Costa de Morte after Compostela.
Rare sunset view at the Muxia lighthouse at the end of three weeks of walking.
Post Camino: Leap year day at Plum island, Massachusetts where Spanish stone was hurled into the Atlantic.
Below are extracted quotations from the reviews of the twenty novels in Chapter 9. Cover images of all these books can be found on the sister website created for Along The Way at www.bestcaminobook.com. The novels are separated into four typologies wherein they are presented progressing from best to worst. Each novel is given a star rating from five to zero and is grouped into one of the four general assessment categories of “Striding,” or those which are considered to be essential reading; “Shuffling,” or those which are fine and worth reading; “Stumbling,” or those which can be given a pass; and “Stopping,” or those which should be completely avoided.
** The Templar’s Penance (Michael Jecks, 2003)
“does an admirable job in enabling readers to imagine just what the bustling of…pilgrims…might have been like in the year 1323”
“a satisfying whodunit conclusion”
“there are some humorous anecdotes that modern pilgrims can relate to”
** Strong as Death (Sharon Newman, 1996)
“the tone of the novel at times seems confused, mixing good [medieval] period insights…with anachronistic sensibilities…
“chapters are entitled for specific locations and times…which makes interesting reading for Camino veterans”
“descriptions of the idiosyncrasies of various locations and sights demonstrate her research and intimate familiarity with the Way”
** Death of a Pilgrim (David Dickinson, 2010)
“does a good job of subtly inserting just the right amount of history and local descriptions to provide the novel with authenticity,
yet wisely stays free of overwhelming the story with tangential didacticism”
* Murder Makes a Pilgrimage (Sister Carol Anne O’Marie, 1993)
“[an] unassuming novel, a throwback in spirit and style to Agatha Christie”
“includes many atmospheric descriptions”
* Dead End on the Camino (Elyn Aviva, 2001)
“unpretentious, occasionally unbelievable, and otherwise largely unmemorable”
”create characters…for didactic lessons about the legends and history of the Camino…that do nothing to advance
the plot and do nothing for character development”
“can write well and does handle the task of managing convincing, though often…stilted dialogue”
**** Journey to Compostela: A Novel of Medieval Pilgrimage and Peril (Bernard Reilly, 2001)
“a gem, not only being the most exciting of all novels that have been written about the Way, but also being one of the best
works of fiction to portray the Middle Ages”
“a masterpiece of nihilism, [and] a refreshing anecdote to the cheerful and uplifting spiritual claptrap that…characterizes
many novels about the Camino”
*** The Cockleshell Pilgrim: A Medieval Journey to Compostela (Katherine Lack, 2003)
“possibly the most accurate description of what it must have been like to be a pilgrim in the Middle Ages”
“aided by thorough research…a weird, almost unique, hybrid of history and protofiction”
“powerful descriptions of pilgrims walking through familiar landscapes”
** The Ramsey Scallop (Frances Temple, 1994)
“an engaging story that convincingly portrays the Middle Ages for young-adult readers”
“gradual and subtle presentation of information about the art, architecture, and history of pilgrimage”
“never does the author succumb to the all-too-easy and thus frequently adopted method of simply inundating the reader
with pages of didacticism that can overwhelm the story”
** The Secret of Santiago: A Novel of Medieval Spain (Bernard Reilly, 1997)
“descriptions of early medieval life feel believable and the dialogue is crisp and focused. Lots of historical details are presented
but never at the expense of the gripping story”
“provides a sense of temporal connectivity between the distant, medieval events and the modern, reading pilgrim”
Walking the Way: A Medieval Quest (Neal A. Wiegman, 2009)
“a long, dawn-out history lesson that is so boring as to make the book…nearly unreadable”
“a lame attempt at creating some sort of story…proves, as few other books have ever done so convincingly, that university
professors, no matter how accomplished and well-published they may be, should think very carefully about writing fiction”
ESOTERIC - NEW AGE
* Pilgrimage to Heresy: Don’t Believe Everything They Tell You: A Novel of the Camino (Tracey Saunders, 2007)
“suffers from a confusing and distracting text layout…as well as a perplexingly inconsistent system of formatting for quotations”
“jarring leaps back and forth in time, shifts from first to third person, and excerpts from various texts, make for a confusing
jumble of prose”
“unfortunately, the weight of the jumbled, multi-temporal storyline, filled to the brim with didactic lecturing, buries
the occasional good prose”
* The Pilgrimage: A Contemporary Quest for Ancient Wisdom (Paul Coelho, 1997)
“unfortunately, the fact millions have bought the book and that today one cannot escape meeting while on the Camino some well-
meaning pilgrim who feels it to be her or his purpose in life to go on and on about it, does in no way raise the
literary merits of the book”
* The Prophet of Compostela: A Novel of Apprenticeship (Henri Vincenote, 1996)
“incredibly boring lecture that goes on and on for pages. These digressions completely overwhelm the story”
“displays that he can write an atmospheric scene”
* The Journey: A Novel of Pilgrimage and Spiritual Quest (Elyn Aviva, 2004)
“most of this information is provided in the form of mini-lectures that do little to advance either the plot or character development”
“by the time the novel is finished, the reader is frustrated and confused by it all”
Walking Home on the Camino de Santiago (Linda L. Laswell, 2005)
“one of those odd books…that resides somewhere in the uncomfortable middle ground between fact and fiction”
***** Santiago (Simone Caput, 2004)
“contains no mysterious murders or even untimely deaths, no far-fetched New Age guides or fantastic angelic companions,
no boring historical tangents or esoteric mystical mumbo-jumbo”
“contain[s]…the most raw, most heartfelt, and most honest portrayal of the contemporary pilgrimage captured in fiction to date”
**** Step Closer (Tessa McWatt, 2009)
“a complex tale of forgiveness, redemption, sacrifice, and salvation”
“excels in its nuanced descriptions of great emotional intimacy brought to the surface by both mundane and momentous
experiences on the Camino”
“ably captures that disappointment felt by many at the end of their pilgrimage”
*** Tarnished Beauty: A Novel (Cecilia Samartin, 2008)
“descriptions of the Camino have an authenticity lacking in many other fictionalized accounts of the pilgrimage”
“their stories, past and present, finally conjoining at the end of the novel in a dramatic flourish across time”
** Therapy (David Lodge, 1995)
“creates an endearing character”
Ten Thousand Ways to Santiago: A Pilgrimage Novel (E. C. Curtsinger, 2005)
“presents one run-on, directionless, fictionalized conversation amongst a muddle of forgettable characters that goes on and on
and on…and which has little or no reference to the pilgrimage”
“a cacophony of dialogue, too-cute word games…illogical and inconsistent use of italics, all buried in a dog’s breakfast
of meaningless events that jumble together with neither structure nor purpose. This book, more than other…comes the closest
to being totally unreadable.”