France, the Soul of a Journey is a travel memoir that really gets into the veins of France’s lush ambience. R J ODonnell recounts a holiday there with three travelling companions, proving with humour and literary flourish why France is the most visited country in the world. From the chain of spires in medieval Normandy, south to the Loire Valley where Renaissance France and the ideas of the great civilisation first began, the mood is laden with what makes France so loved.
The French themselves give the tantalising name la France profonde to the deep countryside where traces of traditional farming still linger and where ethereal France is at its most potent. As rolling hills, buzzing markets and local lore reveal themselves, the passing tourist too gets caught up in that rare love the French have for the soil.
The travellers share great moments: at a church concert, sampling the local cuisine or seizing a moment of nostalgia in a salon de thé. Anecdotes of the people met along the way enliven the journey with passing humour, while conversational tones of friendship and fun are never far off. Most of all, travelling in a group calls for the distilling of differences into that holiday essential called compromise.
While this book carries the substance of careful research, facts do not weigh down the narrative but are presented in an engaging style. France’s history, myths and legends weave subtly into the story and historical figures are taken off textbook pedestals and introduced in a light and personalised way.
France, the Soul of a Journey is a fascinating read not just to potential visitors to the country, but to those interested in a novel-style account of a holiday with some history and culture thrown in.