Review Blog

Jan 11 2012

The well at the world's end by A. J. Mackinnon

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Louis Braille Audio, 2010. Read by the author, A. J. Mckinnon, 12 hours (10 CDs.)
Black Inc., 2010.
(Ages: 12+)Humour. Travel. A traveller taking prodigious risks with his adventures, Mackinnon first drew me into his world when a few years ago, I listened to an audio tape of his sometimes perilous journey from Cheshire to the Black Sea in a small boat (The unlikely voyage of Jack de Crow). He navigated rivers and canals, backwaters and open sea to avoid using anything but his little boat. With all his worldly goods stowed away he traversed sea and county, country and continent. I held my breath as he traversed the English Channel, and was amazed that he made it as far as he did. This time, he has determined to get back to Ireland from Australia, without resorting to a plane. And he does. It takes a lot longer than he had hoped, he meets some improbable people along the way and has amazing luck. For an armchair traveller the story told on these CDs is stunning.
Each leg of his journey involves a story or two told with humour and innocent delight. He is always taken aback at people's generosity, whether it be in the highlands of Thailand as he crosses the border into Laos, or the guards on the border with China, a place he is told not to go, or yacht owners in New Zealand offering him a berth on their race to Indonesia. But at times he seems so naive, missing Aden when the ship he is on, forgets he is on board, or being part of a ceremony in Laos where a daughter is brought smiling shyly to him, or travelling with a married couple on their small boat, their crumbling relationship obvious to all but the author.
But all is told with good humour and is a rivetting set of cds to listen to while driving or walking. Some good natured stretching of the storyline helps maintain the interest, and the story surrounding the well at the world's end, purporting to bring long life, begins and ends this easy to listen to story. And a tale read on the cds by the author, adds an authority that is hard to resist, especially when Mackinnon is a drama teacher, and readily slips into the personalities of those he met.
Fran Knight

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