In April 2008, Jon Faine and his son Jack closed the door on their Melbourne home and, leaving jobs, studies, family and friends, took six months and went overland to London in their trusty 4-wheel-drive. This intelligent and funny recount of the countries they visited, people they met, and trouble they got into, is also the story of a tender father-son relationship.
©2010 Jon Faine (P)2010 Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd
The author and his 19 year old son, Jack, pulled off their goal of Australia to London by motor vehicle, though the project was nearly derailed entirely at a few points. They begin by ship to Timor Leste (East Timor) and then on through Indonesia and southeast Asia to China - which takes up a large part of the story - and then west through Mongolia, the 'Stans, Iran and Turkey to Europe.
Most of the book is narrated by Jon Faine, in a manner strongly reminiscent of Michael Palin (with an Australian accent). Jack makes a few comments here and there, as well as reading a couple of long sections from his point-of-view late in the saga.
Jon's reading was quite clear, but the first half of the book seemed rather dull to me. I confess that I was a bit turned off by his interjection of so much politics, such as his French friends who were "in exile" in Asia in despair over Sarkozy's election, etc. Ho Hum. Jon has a sense of humor - his depictions of food, regulations, and such, are sometimes laugh-out-loud funny. However, there are times where his pessimism over poverty, etc. struck me as grim; he also seemed a bit naive for someone from his background. Bottom line: he and I wouldn't likely be pals, but I give him credit for his accomplishment.
Jack ... on the other hand ... I couldn't really get a handle on. I'd thought he was much younger until his actual age was mentioned. On the one hand, he's mentioned as having traveled extensively himself, but on the other, he sometimes seems overwhelmed by the situation. There's a scene in Turkmenistan(?) that's done in the format of a theatrical script (which went on longer than it should've), where Jack's navigation skills are a complete mess. If he were really that inept, they'd likely never have made it as far as Darwin! I fast forwarded through his longer sections as he seemed to mumble to me.
I'd recommend the book as the story of a unique experience, although the parts didn't make a cohesive narrative for me.
My family loved this book - we listened during long car trips. It reminded us of travel we have done in Asia and is inspiring us to travel in a more adventurous way. Mind you, they have put us off travelling to Mongolia. It was also good hearing perspectives from both Jon (father) and Jack (son). It says a lot about them that they were able to travel together for so long.
"Rollicking yarn - bettered being read by Jon Faine"
Those familiar with ABC 774, or 3LO as it used to be known, will also be well familiar with the voice and persona that is Jon Faine. Jon is a lawyer by training but a journalist by profession, at least for the last 14 years or so occupying the important ABC Australian national broadcasters' seat across the morning timeslot in the Australian State of Victoria.
Jon has a wonderful voice for radio and this makes his own telling of his own adventure story all the more heartwarming for those who know his voice. For those who don't know it, be prepared to be audibly entertained and enlightened by his clarity of speech, turns of phrase, and great use of diction and language. He is a delight to listen to.
This book is more than just a remarkable travel story - and remarkable it is. It is a great story of family, of father and son, of generational change and differences, of technological advances and glimpses of times oh so recent where we managed without many of those devices we know take for granted and have become utterly dependent upon. The book gains a great deal by including passages written and read by Jon's son Jack. His inclusions and his telling of his own story in his own words admirably compliments those words of his father.
For those with a sense of adventure, yet lacking the fortitude to carry it out, here is inspiration ....but with with warnings aplenty.
For those with a sense of intrigue and curiosity about many of these new countries arising from the fall of the Soviet Union, here is a wonderful glimpse behind the rusted Iron Curtain.
This audiobook is Very Highly Recommended on its own merits - but also as an absolutely wonderful companion to the hard copy of the book itself. This audiobook will be enjoyed again and again in years to come.
Check out www.melbournetolondon.com for more info related to their story.
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