Last Friday, I reviewed "When Wanderers Cease to Roam" by Vivian Swift, which was my first experience with the woman who has created her own literary genre. Part memoir, part graphic novel, part intangible ray of sunshine, Swift knows how to make the heart sing.
Establishing her own genre wasn't enough. She has brought forth even more substance to her craft with "Le Road Trip" by throwing in some travel advice, a guide to the oft-overlooked side streets of France, and thoughts on relationships.
You might even hate traveling, hate France, and prefer to be single, but I can almost guarantee this will be one book that you will want to own. It is a treasure. Here are some details:
Synopsis: Vivian has seen it all and done it all, having lived in 23 countries over a time period of 20 years, a great bit of that time spent in France. When Vivian recently married, her and her husband, a seasoned traveler in his own right, decided to have a French honeymoon.
So Vivian first offers some advice on efficient packing, on planning a trip, and drawing parallels between love and travel. Expect an infatuation phase, some bumps in the road, then inevitably, all hell breaks loose. The trick is to survive it! She shares her stories of courtship with her new husband, and their trip through France, bumps, bliss and all.
Along the way, we are offered a primer on various types of grapes, of small French towns that are picturesque without the tourist traffic, of the best edible delights known to each region, and little-known historical sites not necessarily included in your Frommers pocket guide.
But what would a memoir from Vivian be without her gorgeous, whimsical drawings? Of old castles, a small table in a corner cafe, of her new husband sitting on the beach with his shirt on his head eating a tomato? Of the rolling countryside, a bed-and-breakfast cat-away-from-home, the sunset in Saint-Malo, or dancers on the Pont des Arts. Read the book, and you've been there, if only in your mind and heart.
My thoughts: There was a question asked several weeks ago, I believe through one of the memes, about which book you would like to live within. As soon as I read this book, I knew I would never have any other answer but one. This was a multi-emotion, multi-sensation experience. Instead of being thought-provoking and introspective, like her last book, this one was more informative (as you would expect from a guide) and FUNNY. I laughed out loud through the entire book, in between my moony, goopy smiles.
Vivian is in love, but she has also been there before. She has a very practical approach to life, love affairs and travel. In one illustration, which shows a couple sitting atop a very tall wall having wine and cheese, she says, "I do not think it is romantic to have a picnic hanging off the ramparts of Mont. St.-Michel. I think it is stupid. Yes, I know this makes me sound like an old worry-wart. But the older I get the more I understand that life, and love, and care-free Summer days are against all odds. People should take better care of them."
I also laughed FOR DAYS when she relayed one portion of their journey, in which they were trying to locate some ancient Celtic standing stones. This nightmarish day included bad information on transportation, a lot of walking, no water, unhelpful tourists, less than impressive stones, cursing, and silence between the newlyweds for a couple of hours. She was in full, snarky story-telling mode, and it reminded me of many road trip stories of my own.
So whether you have ever wanted to visit France, or have lived there, if you are a world traveler, or have never left your home state, I would bet a good bottle of Bordeaux that you would fall in love with this book. Swift is an incredibly witty and talented woman, and makes you yearn for the world as seen through her eyes.
The last time I was at Barnes & Noble, they were sold out of this book. No wonder. I am going to get my hands on two copies...one for me, and one as a gift for friends who used to live in France. And maybe one more copy just to give to anyone I meet who needs a shot in the arm. So move along quickly and give this one a peek!
5 out of 5 stars