A Walk Across France

Miles Morland

Read June 2005

Morland, a self-described alpha-male, needs a break from playing the big financial broker, and needs to restore his marriage. His response is to walk across France. This takes a certain fortitude, because neither he nor his wife are walkers. (Well, except he may be fitter than he initially lets on.)

Mimicking famous trips is all the rage (Grand tours! Roman roads! Compostela! The Tour de France!). These have the disadvantage of lacking creativity, but the benefit of providing a narrative framework; if all else fails, you can at least write about someone else who took the same road. Lacking such a point of reference, Morland must write about his wife and himself; this is hardly surprising, given his degree of self-absorption.

There are some fine moments, such as the local who tells him half-way across the country that rain correlates to not being able to see the Pyrenees; and Morland does lean to scale down his sense of time. But most of all, what comes across is an almost unbearable personality lain bare. More interesting than reading the book, even, is trying to understand what would compel such revelations. Is it therapeutic? Does he not care about his readers? Is he an incorrigible twit? Is he completely clueless? We can never know. In the end, we get relatively little of France, and a lot of miles of Miles. It's fascinating, in its own bizarre way.