Being a travel blogger I love travel writing – it’s such a diverse and interesting genre. I’ve read a few great examples recently, but none that have a focus on recent history. Into Adventure And Sunshine is a really fascinating topic for a travel memoir as it records author Ian M. Packham on a lengthy trip from Algeria back to to Britain, following in the footsteps of his great uncle Bert during his time as a Royal Engineer in the Second World War.
“A journey seven decades in the making, this epic five month, 1,000 mile (1,600 km) overland journey sees Ian head behind the lines of World War Two. Following in the footsteps of his great uncle, conscripted into the Corps of Royal Engineers at the beginning of the conflict, Ian crosses through the political hotspots of Algeria and Tunisia in North Africa, before travelling up much of the length of the Italian peninsula, from Naples to beyond the Austrian border. In doing so he uncovers a unique window into the Mediterranean’s most – and least – visited destinations, as well as the forgotten stories of men and women, soldier and civilian, no longer here to tell their own astonishing tales.”
(Taken from Amazon)
Into Adventure And Sunshine contains three parts, each focusing on different areas that Bert worked in during the war. The first is North Africa, Algeria and Tunisia, and the second movement through Italy to the Austrian border. The final part follows the last leg home, up through Europe and eventually to the South of England.
It’s an interesting journey, and travelling the entire length of the journey makes me tired just thinking about it. Having to build railway lines across it during the time of the war makes me feel positively exhausted. You forget how vast, and in Algeria’s case, unrelenting, these locations and climates can be, but Packham does a very good job of illustrating this through his in-depth accounts of each area.
Being in love with Africa, I thought I would have been intrigued by the first part the most. It was interesting, especially as Algeria and Tunisia are so wildly different from here in the UK, however it was the second part that I was really gripped by. The author’s use of description is excellent, truly rich in detail. In this section in particular I really felt like I was experiencing the surroundings myself.
The narration switches between Packham’s journey and Bert’s, positioned side by side. As we read about the modern day we also transport back to the war, into Bert’s situation. The author uses his own research of Bert’s life (compiling mostly of documents left to his grandfather from Bert himself such as postcards, letters, and official documents) to illustrate what it must have been like, and track the full extent of Bert’s time as an wartime engineer.
As he travels he attempts to recreate the photos that he has from Bert’s time. This is one area I felt could have been improved as I so desperately wanted to see both photos together. There are photos throughout the book, but this would have given it a great touch for comparison of both journeys.
The thing I really enjoyed about the travel memoir was that it highlighted a lesser known experience of the Second World War – my understanding of the war is basic anyway as I only studied History until Year 9, and even then all I know is either frontline experience or political activity. We don’t hear much about those behind the frontline, and reading about Bert has made me realise we should. Fighting on the frontline was terrible, but there is so much to learn from the other participants as well.
Into Adventure and Sunshine has inspired an interest in WWII for me (more than the actual subject at school did). It was fascinating to read a real account from the time, and I loved that the author undertook his own personal journey to really convey it. I enjoyed reading about the road less travelled and I’ve now got more places I want to visit from it.
I’d love to read more history travel memoirs, and would recommend it for anyone interested in travel, the war, or both. It’s an easy but poignant read, accessible even if, like me, you know well less than you should when it comes to history.
If you’d like to purchase a copy of travel memoir Into Adventure And Sunshine then you can do so here:
An adventurer, award-winning travel writer, after-dinner speaker, Africa nut, public transport buff, and accidental photographer, Ian M Packham has written for a range of outlets including Adventure Travel magazine, The Metro newspaper, and two Bradt travel anthologies. He was a runner-up in National Geographic Traveller (UK)’s travel writing competition in 2013.
(Taken from Amazon)
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