Rambling on the Road to Rome – Peter Francis Browne

Rambling on the Road to Rome is another book I picked up in Hay last year. As travelogues go it’s ok, but that’s about it. It never really caught my interest, and had anything else beckoned, I might easily have put it down and never returned.

For one thing the narration it is far more disjointed than such a linear journey gives any excuse for. In fact, I almost gave up right at the start when on the very first night Browne is waiting outside a hotel that, according to a sign on the door is supposed to open at seven but doesn’t. He is on the point of giving up and finding somewhere to pitch his tent, when a couple arrives who also want to stay in the hotel and the woman – the husband is parking the car or something – says «You wait here, I’ll find a phone and call their number.» What happens next is not clear, as the narrative gets lost in a musing on dreams and dogs, and suddenly it is next morning (that is, I assume it’s next morning, it’s Monday morning, at least, Browne does not actually make it clear whether it is next morning or two months later, but that the hotel debacle took place Sunday evening would tally well with Browne’s statement that Toul «was closed when I arrived»). Not that I expect a painstaking account of every minute of every day of the whole journey, but I do feel that the reader should not be left to assume large parts of the action.

Most importantly, perhaps, is that the book – if not necessarily the journey – seems rather pointless. I have a hard time defining for myself exactly what the point of a travel book should be, but whatever it is, it’s missing from this one. Still, it’s not badly written, and it’s interesting enough in parts. I’m unlikely to ever want to read it again, though, so it’ll be bookcrossed soonish.

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