A few days ago I read a book recommendation on Robert's (The Solitary Walker) blog for 'Roads to Santiago' by Cees Nooteboom. It sounded a good read and at present I am short of reading material, so I sent for it.
I feel guilty every time I do this. I do agree with those of you who support independent bookshops and I know they have a lean time of it. But out here in the country with no means of getting into a town with a bookshop (ten miles away) without getting someone to take me now that I cannot drive again, it is so easy to click on Amazon. If you have an account, as I have, all I have to do is bring up the book and click on that and the deed is done.
I ordered it over the weekend and it came this morning. Popped through the letter box at 9am and I read the first chapter over my morning coffee.
And what a book it is. He has been compared with Patrick Leigh Fermor, Norman Lewis, Jan Morris - he is one of those writers who evokes the soul of a nation in a few words.
Every sentence has a gem in it - they come so thick and fast that it is impossible to remember them all and I suspect it will only be after reading the whole book a few times that they will be committed to memory. Here are a few examples:-
After leaving the monastery at Venuela he says, "the door of the monastery swings shut behind me. The hollow sound reverberates through an age-old silence and I am out in the world of choices and decisions again"
He also speaks of the bowl and how, on viewing bowls in a museum which go back for thousands of years, he realises that although we can now put a man on the moon and return him to earth, the early design of the bowl was so perfect that it has never been altered.
He views the tomb of the Lord of Aragon guarded by two griffin-like creatures - their beaks open in soundless fury. He says 'you see the noise but you don't hear it, but by seeing it you can hear it.'
He says that making time melt is a peculiar Spanish occupation and it certainly gives a whole new meaning to those incredible Dali watches draped over various things.
I am smitten. Although I am only just starting chapter two, I have an urge to go back to the beginning of chapter one and read it again. It is not often I get a book to read which has this effect on me.