Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Book Review - The Valley of Heaven and Hell

I thought this book would be perfect for taking with me on my cycle touring adventure across France this summer but curiosity got the better of me and I started it much sooner! I actually took it with me on my recent short trip to France and read it in two sessions - the first half on the 5 hour crossing going out and the second half on the 5 hour crossing coming home.

'The Valley of Heaven and Hell - Cycling in the Shadow of Marie Antoinette' "follows the identical route of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette" and tells the story of their trials and tribulations "as they tried to escape the Revolution and their journey back to their grisly executions".

The book begins in Versailles and then follows their route across Paris and through the Marne Valley. Having visited the Palace of Versailles myself, I found could relive the place once again reading Susie's excellent descriptions and own thoughts about the place.

As well as being and excellent book describing the highs and lows of cycle touring, the book also gives a wonderful insight into the lives of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI along with that of their children. The history passages were just as enjoyable as the cycling passages. At times the book conveys perfectly the sense of urgency, panic and frustration of the royal couples' escape attempt and capture and the tempo of the writing matches the story perfectly. It is not too heavy on history and is written in a way to make it perfectly understandable and enjoyable to learn about. All I remembered of Marie Antoinette beforehand, was her famous quote about eating cake!

Susie Kelly is not specifically a cycle touring adventurer and has also written other books about exploring France on foot and by car with her husband. I thoroughly enjoyed 'The Valley of Heaven and Hell' and will now be purchasing Susie's other titles to take with me on my own journey around France. 

I have subsequently been in touch with Susie via Twitter and really hope to find the time in my schedule to pay her a visit this summer :)

1 comment:

  1. Thank you very much for your kind comments, and I'm pleased that the book kept you entertained. Do hope that we can get to meet if you come down this way. Have I given you my phone number yet?