Like Father, Love Son: Walking Back to Happiness, by Alan Nolan

Like Father, Love Son: Walking Back to Happiness, by Alan Nolan

Alan Nolan and his son Ian have become estranged over the years, both emotionally and geographically. Alan proposes they bridge the gap that has grown between them by embarking on a long-distance walk, the Tour de Mont Blanc together.

Considered one of the classic long-distance hiking trails the TMB circles the Mont Blanc massif, covering 170km with 10,000m of ascent while taking in France, Italy and Switzerland.

Described as “a blend of travel, autobiography and family history peppered with humour”, Like Father, Love Son is more than just a book about their trek. Alan feels that he never talked enough with his own father and is left with many unasked questions about his life. He hopes to use their time walking together to bridge the gap that has grown between himself and his son, and to share his experiences of growing up and becoming who he is now.

However, despite his best intentions his son remains indifferent to his attempts to make the walk any more than a shared adventure, and the book itself serves the purpose of providing the intended legacy from father to son.

Born and raised in Southport, Alan Nolan shares the typical Liverpudlian humour, exhibiting a tendency for rather blatant, cringe-worthy puns. Upon encountering the first few of these I experienced some initial misgivings, but as Alan’s life story drew me in I came to view them as intrinsic to the tale.

All in all a good read.

Sweet Honey, Bitter Lemons: Travels in Sicily on a Vespa, By Matthew Fort

Sweet Honey, Bitter Lemons: Travels in Sicily on a Vespa, By Matthew Fort

I was drawn to this book because it appealed to me on so many levels. I love food and cooking; I am considering moving to Italy post-Brexit; and I am drawn to the idea of an extended European road-trip, be it in a camper-van, a car, or by motorbike. In the nineties Jude and I even spent a holiday riding around the Greek island of Thassos on a moped, although my only gastronomic memory is of having egg and chips in a taverna that opened out-of-season especially for us. Perhaps because of this my expectations were set too high, but for me this is one of those books which attempts to combine travel and cookery without quite hitting the mark. The sum is somehow less than the parts.

Matthew Fort is a well-respected food columnist and writer. He was Food and Drink Editor at The Guardian for 15 years from 1989 to 2006. His accolades include Glenfiddich Food Writer of the Year, Restaurant Writer of the Year and Cookery Writer of the Year. His food credentials are undisputed.

This is the second in a series of (so far) three, chronicling his Italian adventures on a Vespa, along with Eating Up Italy and Summer in the Islands. All have been well received and well reviewed.

In this book he returns to Sicily,  an island he first visited with his brother some 30 years earlier, on a gastronomic road-trip. The renowned chef Giorgio Locatelli, himself an award-winning author, is quoted on the front cover describing it as “Elizabeth David meets Jack Kerouac”. This, sadly, is simply not true.

As primarily a food book it works well. It is impossible to doubt Matthew’s enthusiasm for Sicilian cooking. His examination of Sicily’s vibrant food culture is comprehensive and thorough. He writes passionately about how the younger generation are abandoning the traditional ingredients and techniques in favour of convenience. The Elizabeth David reference is perhaps a valid one, but Matthew is no Kerouac.

As a travel book that it fails to satisfy. Despite the clever conceit of travelling on a Vespa it lacks the depth of detail that makes me feel part of the adventure. I would like to know far more about the ordinary people he meets, the hotels he stays in, the petrol stations, cafes and bars.

The entire book rather reminds me of the last chapters of Chris Stewart’s Last Days of the Bus Club, which leave the impression that a pressing deadline compelled him to throw in a few recipes to make up the word-count. I frequently found myself having to doggedly continue to the end of a chapter.

In conclusion, Sweet Honey, Bitter Lemons is a book better suited to foodies than travel buffs.

 

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