Book Review of The Long Way Down by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman



The long way down charts a trip from John O’Groats to Cape Town made by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman. While the trip wasn’t to raise money for charity itself, it did involve various stops to learn about the work of different charities.

People

Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman take turns at narrating their experiences so some of the language can get a bit fresh at times, with some swearing. The subject matter is interesting enough to compensate for the fact that neither of the authors is a professional writer. This book is essentially a tidied up diary rather than proper travel writing, in fact if you’re expecting fulsome descriptions of the landscape they encounter, you’re probably going to be disappointed. Obviously it is mentioned and the condition of the terrain comes up frequently, but this book is much more about people than about place. Their support team is mentioned regularly, although they don’t actually narrate, which I think is a bit of a missed opportunity, plus there are lots of encounters with local people which are both touching and fascinating.

Setting

The first 7 chapters describes the journey from John O’Groats to Italy, chapter 8 covers getting from Italy to Tripoli, in Libya (first by ferry and then over land), and then there are a whole 18 chapters devoted to their experiences of Africa.

Key Events

This is an “epic journey” more than a “grand tour” although they do make a few stops for major attractions. Three of the 26 chapters describe visits to charities and talk about their work. Chapter 5 includes a trip to Robin House children’s hospice in Scotland. Chapter 13 features Riders for Health, who provide medical services to remote locations in Kenya and Chapter 18 describes a visit to a UNICEF project helping victims of landmines. In addition to this there are meetings with people who have been directly impacted by conflict in Africa, such as the Rwandan genocide. While these are very emotionally engaging, they’re ultimately positive experiences as they show people getting on with their lives and dealing with the most difficult of circumstances with faith and hope.

Overall impression

If you’re OK with a bit of swearing and are more interested in people than places, then this is a great read and may give you a whole new perspective on Africa.

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