this is the book for YOU! I bought it as a general interest travel narrative, and it does work as that, although at some points better than others.
Part 1 struck me as the least "general interest" section, as the author spends much of that time alone on the high seas in the middle of nowhere, although there are (eventually) stops in the Marquesas, Samoa, Tahiti, Fiji, etc.
Part 2 is largely concerned with Australia, both sightseeing on land, and sailing its vast coast, finishing up with the trip to Arabia, with a lengthy stopover in Sri Lanka.
Part 3 covers the most in terms of miles - Arabia to California, via the Mediterranean, Atlantic, and Panama Canal. Starts out with adventures in avoiding pirates (he never really is threatened, though friends have a lot less luck) from Arabia to Israel, through the Suez Canal. Stops, including sightseeing trips, in Israel, Italy, Gibraltar, the Canary Islands, and Trinidad, until the not-so-simple Canal crossing, and home to San Diego.
Michael's a really nice fellow, without being particularly sappy about it, making lots of friends along the way; he uses the convention of referring to them by their boats' names ("Beatrice" etc.) and as he meets up with some after a long absence from the story, that did get a tad confusing at times. He's also quite a foodie, so it wasn't exactly hardtack and sardines for him; at one point he has so much surplus fish he makes a quantity of "fish jerky" out of it all! He did a terrific job in picking out the highlights of the trip, so things never really dragged for me, as I'd feared they might.
Parker's narration works quite well in terms of maintaining enthusiasm, although I wish he'd done (more) prep work in getting place names correct, as at times it was almost painful to hear him get some wrong.
Final verdict: definitely recommended!
I haven't read Kingsley's book, but admire Alexander's planning in following the literary trail she left behind. Still, if you're expecting historical footsteps as the primary focus here, it doesn't quite work that way. Roughly half of the book is a modern travel narrative, having little or nothing to do with Kingsley, which was fine by me, but that writer's fans may find the footsteps angle a bit thin. Also, Alexander spends a fair amount of time on a side story of a missionary physician whom Kingsley had met on her journey. Overall, a pleasant read, where not much really happens of note - no wildly challenging monkey wrenches typical of other African adventures: she goes places (some Kingsley-related, others not), meets people, reports what she finds, and moves on to the next location. Lecat's narration came across as a bit more ... patrician, and seems a bit more mature, than I'd expected of Alexander herself, giving the story the air of a Womens' Institute talk from local gentry; however, as there aren't really any truly dramatic moments, that wasn't such a bad fit.
The cycling aspect is almost incidental to the content: Bennett is no Josie Dew nor Bettina Selby, though she's quite upfront about it. Instead, there's rather interesting travel narrative concerning the scenery of the areas she and Mick visit, as well as notes on the historical importance of many places. And then there's the pubs, mention of each one of the many they stopped at, and exactly which beers they quaffed. Regular entries along the lines of "Wolfsbane Corner has one pub, The Curious Cretin, where we dropped in after making dinner at the campground next door. They had offerings from the craft brewers Henchman & Son, so Mick enjoyed a Saucy Sally witbier, while I tried their Leering Lout stout; we agreed that mine was the better product ...." abound; I appreciated those items, but if you feel that sounds tedious, this ain't the book for you! I did have a little bit of trouble figuring out their relationship, which is implied to be travel buddies, nothing more. Bennett's writing was great in terms of balancing the serious nonfiction geographical aspects, and the self-deprecating humor of their mishaps. I'd look forward to raeding anything else she'd write. Nicola MacKenzie's narration made a perfect fit, as though it were Bennett herself speaking directly to the reader.
I generally like true adventure tales and this one was on an exploration of Antarctica that was unknown to me.
However, the narration and delivery was devoid of almost all emotion. I contrast it to the story and narration of 'Into Thin Air' by Jon Krakauer. In that book, you could understand and empathize with the Everest quest and sense the extreme dangers involved.
Here, the story is told in an almost matter of fact, police report style. " Mawson fell down a crevass....he climbed out on his second attempt." Yawn.
Another issue was, and this is not the narrator's fault, that some information was repeated at times. I wondered if this book was written by a 'team' and several chapters made references to the same events or technical information.
If this is truly the 'Greatest Survival Story in the History of Exploration', it surely was delivered in dead-pan as I almost missed the climatic parts.
All in all, I am glad to have learned about Mawson and his experiences in Antarctica and the challenges, but they were delivered with such a lack of emotion that as another reviewer said, it probably would have been a better read.