I’d been looking forward to Ben Hatch’s new book Road to Rouen – this might sound slightly tragic but Ben was the first author I ever tweeted to say how much I enjoyed a book after reading his first book, Are We Nearly There Yet? These days I quite often tweet authors, which may sound slightly stalky, but it always seems to be well received.
Anyway, I digress. In both books Ben and his wife Dinah rent out their house in Brighton and pack up their two young children, Phoebe and Charlie for a several-months-long road trip researching family attractions for guide books. In his latest one, as the title suggests, they travel around France.
As I live in France, this one particularly resonated with me as they learn to deal with the general, well, Frenchness of France with its limited opening hours and weird swimming pool rules etc (my six year old son was also told off by a lifeguard for not wearing Speedos in the public pool when we first arrived.) Les shorts sont interdit.
While Road to Rouen is probably generally billed as “a travel book”, and while it does detail the family’s experiences around France in a sometimes laugh-out-loud way, the real strength of both books is their humanity and Ben’s honest detailing of their family life – everything from the kids weeing on the family’s luggage in a car park to his failure to “perform” on an air bed in a tent with a torch light shining in eyes.
From a personal point of view, I particularly enjoyed the donkey trekking episode as we did a very similar trip with the kids and were also stunned to be let loose alone with a donkey. In fact, I think I suggested it to Ben on Twitter – if I did, sorry about your toe, Ben! Our donkey was also one who would rather eat grass much of the time than, like,walk or anything. We also visited Disneyland with the same excellent guide book, but we didn’t make our kids tape baguettes to their thighs (although I kind of wish I had thought of that.)
This is a brilliant book to read on holiday, and a must-read if you are planning an extended trip with your kids. Ben writes about both the highs and the lows with equal honesty and isn’t afraid to laugh at himself. Highly recommended.