The Valley of Heaven and Hell - Cycling in the Shadow of Marie Antoinette

( 2 )

Overview

In three weeks Susie cycles 500 kilometres through a little-documented area of France that is idyllic cycling territory, dining sometimes in luxury and often on weird makeshift meals in her tent. Along the way there are traumas, tantrums, epiphanies, occasional matrimonial disagreements and more than one glass of champagne.

Susie and Terry follow the identical route of Marie-Antoinette and Louis XVI when they tried to escape the Revolution, and...

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Overview

In three weeks Susie cycles 500 kilometres through a little-documented area of France that is idyllic cycling territory, dining sometimes in luxury and often on weird makeshift meals in her tent. Along the way there are traumas, tantrums, epiphanies, occasional matrimonial disagreements and more than one glass of champagne.

Susie and Terry follow the identical route of Marie-Antoinette and Louis XVI when they tried to escape the Revolution, and their journey back to their grisly executions.

From Versailles, across Paris and through the Marne valley, Susie wobbles along behind her husband, visiting battlefields of WW1 and the vineyards and cellars of the Champagne region.

Tens of thousands of readers have already discovered the joys of accompanying Susie on her past adventures. These include Best Foot Forward (Bantam 2003), a 900km solo walk from La Rochelle to Geneva, and A Perfect Circle (Bantam 2006), a 10,000 kilometre drive around the perimeter of France.

'It is unlikely that any other cyclist could be less competent than the author, nor be so unsuited to wearing skin-tight Lycra.' Susie Kelly

"I've bought other books by Susie Kelly before. Like the best travel writers, I find that time passes quickly in her company. When it's funny it's laugh-out-loud funny, and when it's sad it is heart-breaking."

"This book manages to combine history, humor and the best of travel writing all in one. I loved it!"

"So vividly written that you can almost feel the author's sunburn!"

"Funny, touching, instructive and a darn good tourist guide."

"This book proved a terrific find! A seamless blend of information, entertainment, out loud guffaw inducement, and thought-provocation, Ms Kelly has the joyous knack of entwining story telling with enlightening education."

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781463644666
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Publishing
  • Publication date: 8/3/2011
  • Pages: 258
  • Sales rank: 1,262,651
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.58 (d)

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 22, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Fantastic reading if you love France and/or its history.

    I couldn't put this book down, having been interested in this period of history for a long time. Susie and her husband's adventures on this epic cycle ride had me captivated, from their start at Versaille, the horrors of cycling in Paris to her descriptions of the places she visited and the histories behind them as they followed the final journey of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI. I learnt so much about a part of France I have never visited,the bravery of the French resistance during the wars and the Champagne houses. Having loved Paris since my first school trip visit aged 14, I have an overwelming urge to go back again and look at some of the places I have missed, armed with more knowledge. Yet another great book from my favourite author.

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  • Posted March 12, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    The Valley of Heaven and Hell

    One of my favorite non-fiction genres is the travel narrative. They aren’t an efficient way for planning a trip. Guidebooks are much better for that kind of detail. But for the armchair traveler looking for a vicarious experience, or to get the flavor of an area before visiting, they’re perfect. The travel narrative needs everything any other story has. A rote recitation of what the author did isn’t enough. To create a readable story out of the author’s experience, there needs to be conflict, to hold the reader’s attention, and an overriding theme. There are many options to do this.

    The subtitle, "Cycling in the Shadow of Marie-Antoinette," gives a clue to how this book deals with the issue. The trip covers the route taken by Marie-Antoinette and her family in first trying to escape France and the route used after their capture to return them to Paris. Interwoven with the actual travel, as Kelly and her husband cycle the route and visit sites along the way, is historical background. Buried within the story of Kelly’s trip, which has plenty of conflict of its own, is a mini-biography of the French Monarch, which is full of conflict while providing the theme.

    This approach, of combining history in a travel lesson, is one I’ve seen before and like. Just as history can come alive when you travel to historical sites, doing it by proxy can do the same. If you’re like me, your knowledge doesn’t go much beyond what you learned about Marie-Antoinette and the French Revolution while reading "A Tale of Two Cities" years ago in school. It turns out that the whole “let them eat cake” thing was a small and possibly misleading part of the story.

    While Marie-Antoinette provides a story, there is also the story thread of the actual trip. Kelly not only cycled the entire trip, but did so with her husband, camping most nights. That provides plenty of fuel for conflict as well. This was a trip I enjoyed taking through Susie Kelly’s eyes, both for what I learned about the area of France she traveled, and the history involved. My backside and the muscles in my legs were much happier doing it this way, too.

    **Originally written for "Books and Pals" book blog. May have received a free review copy. **

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