Since publication less than twelve months ago, the reviews for my Camino book – The Way, My Way, overall have been very positive.
I’ve received 65 ***** (five) star reviews, four **** (four) star reviews, one *** star, one ** star, and recently I received a shocker of a * star review. Here is that review:
1.0 out of 5 stars Self-Indulgent Whining, July 1, 2014
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This review is from: The Way, My Way (Kindle Edition)
This is an awful book. It is one non-stop egoistic moan from beginning to end. Mr. Bennett appears to have been singularly ill-prepared, both physically and mentally for what is after all, a long-distance walk – not an ascent of Everest. In the process he comes across as a self-indulgent bore, with no sense of irony as to why other pilgrims avoid him – and not a very nice person, right up to the end, when he is rude to another walker who is interested in his photography.Don’t waste your money. This is definitely an instance when his publisher should have had more sense.
The reviewer calls me, amongst other things, a self-indulgent bore and not a very nice person. Ahem. I’m sure my mother would beg to differ. I was going to say: I’m sure my wife would beg to differ but I might just check in with her first…
I disagree though that I was singularly ill-prepared. I’d prepared thoroughly. Perhaps too thoroughly.
I’d driven most of the route on a prior trip to Spain, I’d read just about everything there was to read, I’d watched documentaries and YouTube videos, and of course the film The Way. And I’d trained for about eighteen months – testing boots, backpacks, on different terrain, over short and long distances etc. I felt that I’d prepared as best one can when undertaking such a spiritual journey.
Anyway, I feel like I’m defending myself. I shouldn’t have to defend myself.
Then today I received an email out of the blue from a lady named Rebecca Bishop from Washington State. She’d just finished the book and had taken the trouble to track down my email address, to let me know how much she’d enjoyed it.
She then wrote this five star review:
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read. The best Camino memoir by far!!!, July 12, 2014
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This review is from: The Way, My Way (Paperback)
I just finished this book a few hours ago. I have, to coin a phrase from a new Camino acquaintance, the Camino Virus. I am obsessed with it. I have been reading memoirs and I believe this was my 6th one in about 4 1/2 months. Everyone has a different Camino experience and every book is different, but this was by far the best. The author is honest about his shortcomings and his desire to overcome them on the Camino. Sometimes he is successful and sometimes not so much, but he tells the story with humor and in a writing style that drew me in and made laugh and touched me deep down in that hopeful Camino heart that can’t wait to arrive in St. Jean Pied de Port. It is a story of transformation and self-discovery. I would recommend this book to anyone who has, or who might, or who will walk the Camino de Santiago. I might even have to read this one again before I leave in 412 days! (But who’s counting?)
It’s as though Rebecca Bishop and Geoffrey Collier had read different books.
I don’t get it.
When you write something that’s very personal, as this book was for me, then you open yourself up for all sorts of criticism. Especially on the internet. I’m used to it from my film work. I’ve had good reviews and bad reviews. You only ever remember the bad reviews!
Reviews aside, this was a book I had to write, to complete my Camino. I’d come back from the pilgrimage with a lot of deep issues unresolved. For me, the only way I could find resolution was to write about my experiences, and in writing about them it was like I’d lain down on a psychiatrist’s couch. In having to examine them through the rigours of writing, I found a certain clarity.
So I wrote this book for myself. To help me work out my stuff. What’s been pleasing lately though is that I’ve heard the book has impacted on several other people in ways I never could have expected.
I won’t go into details because of privacy concerns, however I’ve been thrilled to hear that several people who are going through some personal hardships have read the book and it’s inspired them to undertake their own Camino. And having made that decision their hardships are already starting to melt away.
I’ve also heard that a few people who have completed the Camino and read the book have gained a new perspective in the light of my experiences and insights.
What I’ve discovered is that walking the Camino is just the beginning of your pilgrimage. It doesn’t start in St. Jean Pied de Port or Pamplona or Burgos or Astorga – in many ways it actually starts when you get home.
That’s when it gets really difficult.