Troubador Dying to Know

Released: 28/02/2022

ISBN: 9781803130118

Format: Paperback

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Dying to Know

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Dying to Know – Why the unthinkable has happened 

I am a runner with a special local circuit. One and three-quarter miles up to the top of the hill at Little Trevalgan, within the Penwith peninsula in Cornwall – and then back down again. 3.5 miles for the free flow of thoughts. 

You, the reader, are my companion as I run. Privy to the thoughts that bubble up from my subconscious, what you read is, in part, autobiographical. You also delve into the bole in my magic tree to access the fruits of research into matters that need further investigation. A touch of magical realism does not come amiss at the best of times – but this run of mine is being completed in the worst of times. 

I am running in a pandemic. How has the world become gripped by a virus that is proving so deadly? Why are so many dying before their time? You share my journey of discovery in the realms of history, politics, economics and science over the first year of this pandemic.

DYING TO KNOW - RUNNING THROUGH A PANDEMIC (2022) by Rob Donovan

DYING TO KNOW WHY THE UNTHINKABLE HAS HAPPENED

WHY MORE THAN 150,000 LIVES HAVE BEEN SACRIFICED

I am a runner with a special local circuit. One and three-quarter miles up to the top of the hill at Little Trevalgan, within the Penwith peninsula in Cornwall - and then back down again. 3.5 miles for the free flow of thoughts.

And this is my literary device. You, the reader, are my companion as I run. You are privy to the thoughts that bubble up from my subconscious. What you read is, in part, autobiographical. You are also able, like me, to delve into the bole in my magic tree to access the fruits of research into matters that need further investigation. A touch of magical realism does not come amiss at the best of times - but this run of mine is being completed in the worst of times. I am running in a pandemic. I need to know more about how the world has become gripped by a virus that is proving so deadly. Why are so many dying before their time? You share my journey of discovery in the realms of politics, history, economics and science over the first year of this pandemic. And you also share the photographic images that help bring even more life to my words and thoughts.

http://www.robdonovan-author.co.uk

Rob Donovan opens his heart and his head as he pounds the paths above St Ives. The result is a great book – full of personal, provocative, reflective, educational gems. Easy and engaging to read - the emotional and intellectual cadences do their work.

by Bill Musk


For many people, one of the most unsettling aspects of the ‘Covid time’ was a sense of disempowerment. This unease manifested in many ways: in fatalism and apathy; in anger and defiance in the face of restrictions; in the conviction that agencies or individuals were working against our interests. As Rob Donovan is a man of deeply felt political convictions and anti-establishment cast of mind, it is not surprising that he comes out flying colours for the third of these: the villains of the piece, Messrs Cummings and Johnson.
I don’t personally share this view - I think it was the virus (and, yes, in some cases the lockdown measures) that killed people, not individual politicians. However, I still found this book thought-provoking and interesting. Its points are well-argued, and supported by evidence; by now we all have our own interpretation of the speeches, statistics and decisions of 2020, but it is impossible to dismiss Donovan’s out of hand. And what’s more, there’s an awful lot more to the book than Covid-19. You may think you’ve read enough about lockdown policies, excess deaths and r-rates to last you a life time. But don’t dismiss the ‘Dying to Know’ on that account.
For this is far more than a contribution to the Covid Studies industry. Donovan also writes a runner’s journey through the landscape above St Ives, with powerful and well-informed excursions into the other times and other lives that inhabit the place. The run is a framing device, and also becomes a metaphor, as Donovan chronicles his own fall into – and rise out of – ill health. He chronicles the hard slog and the surges of joy that accompany a serious commitment to all demanding pursuits. And he writes a good sentence: the rise and run matching the varied pace and rhythm of his own footsteps, uphill and down, on road and on pavements.
But perhaps the lasting power of the book will not be about the strange course of events in 2020, but about the future. It becomes increasingly clear that Donovan’s sharp critical eye has in its sights the Tory leader and his one-time adviser, but the whole apparatus of capitalism and the assumptions that underpin it. ‘You may not wish to share all my fury at our misgovernment,’ he allows at an early stage of the book, ‘at least, not yet. But I hope you do choose to learn a thing or two about this monster in our midst.’ Ostensibly, this is a reference to the virus, or perhaps the present government. But in the final chapter, ‘Dying to Know’ breaks free of its immediate contexts, and invites us to consider an alternative to accepted economic thinking: an alternative that may one day feature in a 21st century renaissance of wisdom. Well, you might say, we can all dream. But the end of a long run through difficult terrain – what better time to rest a while, then arise in hope?

by Linda Camidge


A personal narrative and good read, distilled from the interplay between the author’s life experiences through the recent COVID pandemic and political imperfections in that period.

by Peter Hendry


An intriguing and enjoyable book. Rob Donovan develops a very original approach through combining his running journey with other aspects of autobiography, then threading this personal story through with literary and historical references and a strong dose of political anger, not to mention a good helping of scientific and medical education. A surprisingly successful synthesis is achieved from this varied material. The momentum of the author's running circuit is maintained throughout, so that many different stories become one stirring and evocative story for our times.

by Julia Bush


This book is an absorbing and rewarding read! Rob Donovan interweaves various streams of thought skillfully and seamlessly. Autobiographical elements emerge naturally from his accounts of long-distance running in the Cornish landscape, while health and healing are always kept in the reader’s mind in ways that underline the experiences of so many people during this long pandemic. Political philosophy and reflections on practical politics take their place also, and the book as a whole has a deeply humane quality that is uplifting and sustaining. I highly recommend!

by John Reid


“Dying to Know”, what a gem of a book. Author, Rob, a runner of marathons, takes us with him on his regular training runs from his home in Cornish St. Ives and into the neighbouring countryside. During this time, we are privy to his thoughts and the sights he sees along the route he is pounding. By the end of the twelve short chapters, the reader can almost imagine they can see the sea and hear the passing traffic.
It is a gloriously different kind of book which traces the first months of the pandemic as it hit the UK in early 2020. The sequence of events, the restrictions and lockdowns, details of which had already been forgotten by this reader, are catalogued in statistical detail as a reminder of this catastrophic period in our recent history. Rob’s thoughts and opinions of those in power will chime with many readers.
I found this book easy to read both in style and quality and am looking forward to the next outflowing from the pen of Rob Donovan.

by Jenny Fell


Rob Donovan is a talented author with the skill to present topics in a manor that quickly captures and holds the attention of readers. His writings reveal a man of conviction with world views founded in academic curiosity combined with life-years of experience. In Dying To Know, Donovan shares his views with readers, acknowledging that some views may not be those of his audience. But, this is at least in part the purpose of this book - to identify problems, propose solutions, and encourage constructive discourse in place of destructive polarized confrontations. In Dying To Know, Donovan presents a picture of the COVID-19 pandemic in a totally unique manner, that of a long distance runner pondering the many scientific, social, and political problems and revelations that accompanied this outbreak. His description of the global spread of COVID-19 and the virus which causes it is based on sound, peer-reviewed scientific and medical knowledge. Donovan's critique of pandemic prevention measures utilized or in many cases not, is illuminating and causes the reader to ponder how the onslaught of this virus might have been more effectively managed if persons in leadership positions had been more familiar or more willing to properly employ these measures. This scientifically sound description of pandemic events is refreshing in contrast to the volumes of misinformation and disinformation spread by some government entities and via many social media platforms. But, Dying To Know is not merely a treatise on the pandemic. Donovan presents a vivid and intriguing description of other life events, some of a personal nature and others at the societal level. Donovan's style is insightful, sometimes unconventional, often humourous, and always engaging. Rob Donovan, please keep writing books such as this!

by Howard Pue


Like a 21st century Pepys, Rob Donovan guides the reader through the early days of the COVID pandemic and beyond. During this journey many resonant layers of meaning reveal themselves through Dr. Donovan's idiosyncratic but compelling writing style. Historical, scientific, and economic matters merge with personal reflection, all of it expressed through the author's uniquely evocative literary voice. Ultimately, the book is a condemnation of our so-called leaders' astonishingly incompetent and unethical handling of the pandemic, and-- perhaps more importantly-- a heartfelt plea for humanity to find a better way forward. Dying to Know is an enlightening and inspiring book.

by Jessica Raber


A must-have if you (like so many others) have already lost track of what’s been going on during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In his accessible writing style, Rob Donovan shows you the beauty of his surroundings, the ugliness of political games and the wonders of science. On his journey he takes you way back into history, but also into the future, our future. He cares about you and me, he cares about the environment.
Another one of Rob’s books which reads like a train (Dutch expression!): Once you start to you cannot stop.

by Ingrid Helmer


Rob Donovan

Rob Donovan was educated at Dartford Grammar School. From there he won a scholarship to St Catherine's, Oxford reading History. His doctorate was awarded for 'Drink in Victorian Norwich' (2003). 'The Road to Corbyn' (2016) is his 21st century reworking of John Bunyan's Christian classic 'The Pilgrim's Progress'. 'Dying to Know - Running through a Pandemic' is his latest work and will be published by Matador in January 2022.


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