Sunday, 22 May 2016

Book Review: Tracks by Robyn Davidson

So clearly I have missed being punctual on this book by nearly 40 years, but its defiantly worth the read. Tracks is the story of Robyn Davidson, who in 1977 traveled 1700 miles across Australia with four camels and a dog. I first heard about this journey and book only recently when Wildboy announced his plan to cross Australia and someone mentioned this book. The story sounded so interesting I decided to get to book to find out more.

The book covers quite a bit about her struggles in Alice Springs trying to find someone to train her, dealing with the locals, dealing with camels, and procuring all that she needed for the trip (including the camels). This takes up about the first third of the book but in the movie of the same name makes up very little of the story.

This section clearly shows the racism and misogyny in Australian at the time. As an aside I have seen little difference in some areas of Australia today. The book at times makes commentary of the current (1977) treatment of the Indigenous population, the politics and culture surrounding it and generally a lot of interesting back ground information on the state of Indigenous affairs of the time. While these sections are interesting and paint a picture of the culture, and the time, the transitions to these sections aren’t particularly well organised and so almost feel like side rants (that might be a bit harsh). That said the epilogue mentions the rough nature of the write, but choosing not to edit it, rather that it remains real. Note: This may not be the exact phasing, but I no longer have the book for reference.

Now for something I really liked. Unlike other travel type books I have read Davidson outline a lot of the equipment see was travelling with, the camp set up, break downs, how she stripped out gear she didn’t need. I found this all very interesting. Personally I like to get an idea of these things, the equipment they like/deem necessary or unnecessary. I find these details to be an informative education, but also help to see the scene for me, I doubt this is the same for everyone. I also really enjoyed the writing on the journey and the desert itself, I found these sections to be well written and descriptive, without becoming overly elaborate poems about rocks. The psychology of traveling alone and with others was interesting to observe, and I find if interesting that people always asked her why she was making the journey? (I would have though the answer “why not?” would be more than sufficient).

So the raw structure of the book means that it jumps around a little bit with commentary on the Indigenous people, and the desert environment the book it still very captivating holding my interest to keep reading more of the journey. I recommend this book as a book on travel and adventure in a novel form, and for me, a novel setting. Well worth reading.

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