Described by some as "genius", "exquisite prose" "wonderfully surreal" and "Marmite", highly recommended by the Ted Simon Foundation and Overland Magazine, the latter writing "Notes from the Road Volume IV’ is an observational classic, the author's acerbic wit pin sharp". The book describes a summer journey across west, central and eastern Europe without a map and little comprehension of road signs. Twenty seven beautifully written chapters to stimulate and amuse; whilst on a deeper note Ukraine's revolutions are revisited.
The book slips neatly into a wax jacket pocket; doubles as a notebook for your own journey.
I expected the newest vol. III to be like that, after reading vol. IV a year ago. That feeling after finishing each of short chapters: literally you can't have your cake and eat it. The “cake” is funny, juicy, sweet and bitter at times. The choice to resist temptation of reading more, of surrender to words gets harder as you run short of pages that remain to be read.
As I devoured sentences I wondered what’s the force that pushes Mansfield forward in his motorcycling travels. Many would say enough is enough. But he is an addict to the unknown that attracts him, offering new friends, new challenges and new adventures. Still it seems that gaining the balance in his two lives, on the road and “regular”, both fascinating and challenging at times as he shares and understands his limitations, and as brave as he is, he still knows when enough is enough; the demarcation line drawn by experience and love.
Gods of the roads must like him, as they test him, challenge him and honour him offering life full of serendipity, unexpected encounters and perfect coincidences.
Cannot wait for the next volume, whichever timeline Mansfield is hopefully going to choose for his next book — I wouldn’t be surprised if he threw the dice for the volumes’ number, as he does sometimes on the road to determine his route.
At the end of the book I had just one feeling —I wanted more.
The New Beat Poet?
This is a curious book. What hides behind the unassuming cover, and the seemingly baffling chronology (I've read volume IV which came first, volume III is the second...) is an intriguing tale of Mansfield's travels across Eastern Europe and Asia on his motorbike.
But unlike other such, perhaps more famous, bike journey books, this isn't a book about motorbikes, or indeed foreign places. This is a book about people. The people he meets on the way and their lives, mirrored with his own which give a fascinating insight into humanity across different cultures that I've not encountered in any previous such travel books.
The writing style is rhythmic, the beats pounding like those of his bike engine, short and snappy, easy to read and I guess how he fits so much into such a small book. At times I am crying with laughter, at others sharing his pain. But mostly I belly laughed through the whole book, his turn of phrase and descriptive writing a delight to read. I am left wanting more - I suspect there are countless more stories inside the authors head. I think I could spend many an hour in the pub listening to him recount tales of his journeys and the people he meets. Over coffees, of course.
I can't wait for the next one. Or is it the previous one? I am a chronologically challenged but 100% signed up fan of Mansfield's writing, recommend you too get on board for the ride.
"Suddenly a piece of music or art or literature can arrive on the scene that becomes a landmark for it's genre and becomes a must hear, see or read. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Jupiter's Travels were landmarks and now Notes From The Road by Derek Mansfield is the latest. Multi layered prose offering insightful counterpoint of humour, excitement and tragedy combined in an almost subliminal thread of adventure that we can relate to, or aspire to. A unique and beautifully packaged reading experience."
Colin Overland, Ride Magazine:
"Derek Mansfield has a refreshingly, sometimes unnervingly different approach to writing. In very few words he conjures up those fleeting moments and random conversations, capturing the essence of what makes travelling in general and travelling by motorcycle in particular so wonderful. A treat."
"I loved it… one of the best written books I’ve read… humorous, adventurous, informative. Exquisite writing… amazing …Well recommended.
"I really like being surprised. When it's by a tale of travel and motorcycling, so much the better! This book is like Dr Who’s Tardis! It’s small on the outside but big and unique on the inside. I learned, I laughed, I sympathised and I was surprised. It’s very easy to give the book 5 stars."
"I love adventure and true stories and I ride so I had to buy this book, i love it not put it down yet really interesting and makes me laugh and cry. Nice easy read. Came beautifully packaged - big thumbs up makes me want to travel and would make a great gift too
"Probably one of the best travel books available. This is a real treat, heartfelt and inspiring... Derek Mansfield is definitely up there with Ted Simon and the comedy of Terry Pratchett, a brilliant read and an inspiring tale. Personally wrapped and sealed with a very kind message, great for gifts."
"The cover reminds me of a little leather notebook I often carry. I don't write or draw in it very often, but when I do it will be something I value. Derek has a gift of being able to ramble concisely. This volume is at once packed with flavour yet light enough to hunger for more. Like my Mom's lemon soufflé, to be enjoyed at any time. A single spoonful, or the whole thing! Open it up and enjoy the journey. Some of the best things come in small packages."
You can buy the book here