Thank you so much to Dart Frog Books for the finished copy of Far Sweeter than Honey: searching for meaning on a bicycle by William Spencer. All opinions are my own!
I was so excited to read about Spencer’s trek from England to India via bicycle. This is the perfect book for someone itching to travel right now and I thought that it had all the elements of a good travelogue – interesting people to meet, descriptive scenery, food and culture, and of course personal reflection.
Bookish Quick Facts:
- Title: Far Sweeter than Honey
- Author: William Spencer
- Publisher & Release: Dart Frog Books, December 2020
- Length: 302 pages
- Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for fans of travel, culture, memoir
Here is the synopsis:
This is the true story of a young man’s epic bicycle journey from England to India. Traveling more than eight thousand miles, he encounters all manner of adventure, from the curious company of a butterfly in the wilds of Iran to the aftermath of a coup in Kandahar, Afghanistan—from navigating the foreign yet welcoming Muslim world, where he learns the basics of Islam, to the journey’s end in mystical India, where he arrives at an understanding of what it means to be free.
William Spencer establishes himself as a writer to watch in his debut book, weaving masterful storytelling and cultural insights in a page-turning adventure.
Spencer gives detailed and immersive descriptions of the countryside and cities, including weather, wind, and road conditions. Whether a bucolic French countryside or the middle eastern desert, I thought he took excellent notes.
The journey originally happened in the late 1980s, and I wonder what was changed since then! Even though some elements may now be outdated, it was extremely interesting to read about the culture and culture shock, customs and people that Spencer encountered.
I heavily enjoyed the Turkey through Pakistan chapters the most. Spencer met, for example, a college student at Damascus university taking an English lit course – and when talking about “popular authors”, none were familiar! The culture shock also came through as Spencer and his friend, Rudy, had to navigate different customs and hospitality norms, from how to act towards women to how much skin to cover. Another image that stuck with me was the author sitting on the bank of Sea of Galilee, where Jesus walked on water in the bible, and someone was waterskiing on Christmas eve! I can see where his expectations and reality would have totally clashed in those situations.
Spencer was struggling to reconcile the western ideal with the eastern reality, and it gave me some things to think about too. I liked that he could say like OK, my impression on these locals is adding to their impression of Westerners, and that’s important. Especially in those middle eastern chapters, I found the author becoming more likeable in my mind as he started accepting things as they came.
I also really, really liked the longer Pakistan chapter at the end. I had a doctor friend from a northern region (I forgot where) and he showed me tons of videos and told stories from home, and I could definitely feel some of that regard from the expats that Spencer wrote about, even in the 80s or early 90s.
The last thing to mention is that photos and sketches from the journey are included! The photos are mostly of people, while the sketches are of scenery, trees and such, and I think they added a lot to the story. The only thing that mystified me was how long it took for Spencer to just accept the fact that there is both good and bad in every culture! One cheating merchant or unruly group of kids would sour his mood towards an entire region, even where most experiences were positive, then he would swing back again when the next good thing happened.
That said though, the book was a great mix of hardship, positive and negative, and I think a great portrayal of the journey. There is absolutely no way in today’s day and age that one is going to visit half of these places and I loved getting a glimpse of the foreign countries.
Definitely check this one out if you like travelogues, memoirs, new ideas and cultural exploration. It’s a slow ride but totally worth it