Liralen's Reviews > The Year We Seized the Day: A True Story of Friendship and Renewal on the Camino

The Year We Seized the Day by Elizabeth Best
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Jan 14, 2014

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bookshelves: nonfiction, travel, camino, z-2014, reviewed, z-2015

I suspect that I got rather more out of this than I might have because I had read Elizabeth Best's previous work (also memoir); I suspect also that I would have gotten more out of it had I read something similar by Bowles. That's not to say that this doesn't stand alone -- the Camino gives it, by default, enough structure to let it do so -- but it's safe to say that prior reading informed my reading here. (Worth noting, though, that both authors take what I interpret as a conscious step back from their younger selves for much of the book.)

As a pilgrimage memoir, well, a couple of thoughts. The first is that, to date, the Camino memoirs I've read can be split evenly by gender in terms of who will be more crass? In the context of this book, if ever I was in doubt of who had written a given chapter, I could just check the amount of swearing and discussion of unpleasant smells and/or bodily functions.

The other thought: both authors are aware early on that the struggle for Best will be primarily physical; for Bowles, it ends up being far more of a psychological struggle. But it's also a struggle to get that out of him. His mood gets darker and darker over the course of the book as he starts to face past traumas and comes up against his own limitations; while Best marches sternly on (sometimes against all rationality) and proves her stuff (alone, I'd probably give her sections four stars), Bowles takes much longer about it -- every time he opens the door to examine what's going on inside, he slams it again and pastes on another layer of crass humour.

I have yet to see a Camino memoir that goes significantly further in time than the pilgrimage itself (though my reading of the topic is only in, perhaps, toddlerhood), but I wonder whether Bowles needed that extra space here -- he got to Finisterre, but his journey wasn't over.

Originally read/reviewed in January 2014; notes following reread in September 2015:

Not sure why I was so determined to reread this, but doing so did absolutely nothing to improve my opinion of Bowles's sections. Just...really could not stand them. Alas.

On the plus side -- now that I've walked the Camino myself, and compared notes (so to speak) with my photographs, I know exactly where the cover photograph was taken.

A bit more on this book here.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
January 14, 2014 – Shelved as: to-read
January 14, 2014 – Shelved
January 14, 2014 – Shelved as: nonfiction
January 14, 2014 – Shelved as: travel
January 14, 2014 – Shelved as: camino
January 26, 2014 – Shelved as: z-2014
January 27, 2014 – Shelved as: reviewed
September 12, 2015 – Shelved as: z-2015

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