I read Ewan McGregor & Charley Boorman’s tale of their motorcycle expedition Eastward from London to New York while we were on holiday recently, and found it to be an enthralling read.
The book begins with a short excerpt from much later in the journey, before delving into the background of the two actors, lending some insight as to how they ended up taking on the treacherous trip.
Throughout the story the viewpoint changes between Ewan and Charlie’s narration, giving a good insight into how each stage of the trip is affecting them personally. Maybe it’s due to me being closer in age to Ewan, but I found his chapters a bit more readable than Charlie’s at first, mostly due to Charlie being a bit of a sulk at times.
The book really shines when they’re out in the middle of nowhere, relying on the goodwill of strangers to put them up for the night, or to repair a part on one of the bikes. Some of the trip comes across as soul destroying from the futility of their efforts against the harsh terrain, but it’s these sections which are the waypoints of the journey, and it’s hard to put the book down until they’ve emerged relatively unscathed at the next scheduled stop.
I’ve always admired Ewan McGregor due to the way he’s forged his own path through his career, trying his hand at each facet of his chosen art, so it was good to learn more about the man through the course of the book. His worries and his weaknesses are almost refreshing to read, when compared to the polished image of most movie stars.
It’s this aspect of the book that keeps it enjoyable to the end, as even when the most physically demanding part of the journey is over with, the men still have the emotional turbulance to deal with due to the time spent away from their families.
It’s that aspect that the book communicates to a far greater extent than the tv series, which went more for the drama of the geographical journey than it did the resulting spiritual one. By the last page I felt as if I’d been on that journey with them at times, despite me sitting in the warm Mediterranean sun whilst I read.
In short, The Long Way Round is the perfect holiday read.