‘Far Horizons – Across the Great Divide’ by Andrew Earnshaw

Far HorizonsThe unavoidable first impression of this book is that it’s quite a tome. Even in paperback form, it is 573 pages, making it 5cm thick. The cover image and title make it pretty clear it’s a motorcycle travel book, though the chosen photograph is not very inspiring. Reading the blurb on the back I was surprised to learn that Andrew’s trip was limited to the United States and Canada. The sheer size of the thing gives an expectation of a full-blown round the world extravaganza.

The text starts with a heart stopping ‘moment,’ documented in full much later on. In other books this type of taster/teaser can pull you into the story, but here it seems contrived and does not really fit with the style of the rest of the book. Then come the immortal words that his bike “is the same as Charley and Ewan used …”, this was heart-sinking, as riding on the back of celebrity is not a good start for me as a reader.

The lack of editing is patently clear, when it is not until Chapter 8 that the trip by bike starts, after a two-week customs delay. The reader is given a blow-by-blow account of every movement in that time. Unfortunately this is a theme throughout; with the name and chain of every motel visited and every meal eaten. There are a number of long and detailed descriptions of historical battles, demonstrating his interest, and while culture and history are often a bonus in a travel story, these are simply too long and superfluous. Where was the editor?

The writing itself is easy to read, the author is certainly likeable enough, and the scenic and cultural observations are well made.  It did even make me interested in visiting some of the places he went to, however often I found myself thinking – I don’t need to know all of this and it does not add anything. Frustratingly it’s not just my observation; Earnshaw repeatedly comments that he is blathering on too much, and then continues to do so!

I’m delighted to report that there are no major events that blight the trip, and for the author it was a great life experience, but it lacks the ‘adventure’ element. If the book was half – or maybe two thirds – its size it would probably be an enjoyable read. In the world of self-publishing it is still possible to have a book that has been well edited but Far Horizons is a full record of a trip as opposed to a carefully considered book.

Jenny Cook

ISBN 978-1-78088-528-5
573pages £10.00
Published by Matador 2013