“This novel is a blend of fantasy, Jungian psychology, Buddhism and naturism. The journey follows a real path called the Camino Francés – the French Way – of the Camino de Santiago. Every town, village, hostel, café and geographic feature that the cast of characters passes are real places. However, the characters on the journey are fictions. That said, the characters sometimes borrow words and ideas of historical people such as Moses, King David, Mary Magdalene, Buddha, Akka Mahadevi, Jospeh Campbell, and Carl Jung.”
René, a divorced man now in his fifties is preparing to set out to fulfill a Calling, one that will take him far from his friends, family, and thriving practice in Canada to walk the nearly 500 mile Camino Francés from St. Jean-Pied-du-Port, France to Santiago, Spain. This will be a journey of self-introspection, discovery, and enlightenment.
I really quite like the premise of this story. I love the idea of one man embarking on his journey of self-discovery and journaling about it as he progresses along his pilgrimage. In many ways I was reminded a great deal of Cheryl Strayed’s Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. Granted, these books have two totally different characters coming from different places in their lives but each embarks on their own journey that leads them to profound revelations about themselves.
René meets wonderfully colorful and profound characters on his trek and has a few experiences that have him questioning what is in fact real and what is not and why in the world does he keep having visions of naked people? Could it be his own naked truth lay bare before him or something else altogether? Regardless of what happens each day Renee sniffs out a good cup of coffee and intrepidly continues on his journey, never knowing what may lie ahead.
I enjoy Renee, he is a likable character. I believe he is someone most people would be able to connect with and perhaps even see a little of themselves within. That makes him easy to root for, because as a reader you want everything to turn out well for him in the end….but I won’t tell you how things turn out, no spoilers from this reviewer.
So, having said these positive things why did I rate it at 3 stars? Am I just a horrible shrew refusing to give a 4 or a 5 star review? Ummm….no, I may be stingy at times but I’m not mean like that.
Here is my reasoning for my rating.A I said, I do like the premise of this story and I feel Mr. Longpré is a promising writer but perhaps this story was published before it was ready. The main problem I encountered while reading this was that I simply could not escape an issue with the voice chosen to write this story. You see, as I read, it quickly became apparent that this story should have been written in Renee’s voice…in first person. It is after all the story of his journey, it is about his experiences, and he is the main character so referring to him as a character in the story interrupts what could be a wonderful flow to the story telling, causing it to be more jumpy than fluid. It’s as if he’s constantly calling himself by his own name….and doesn’t that get annoying when someone does that?
That is my main issue however, the other things I noticed are minor details…things a good Editor could help address. But the story itself has real promise…it just needs polish.
So, now I get to the part where I ask myself….”Self, would I recommend A Small Company of Pilgrims?” The answer is…probably. Wow, that sounded wishy-washy didn’t it? I really want to give a resounding yes but I just can’t quite do that, not yet. I would recommend it to those I know could look past the issue I had with it though, and I will say too that if the author addresses the voice issue I will happily read it again and update my review. Maybe you should read it for yourself, let me know if you have a differing view from my own or if you feel I am being too hard on the author. I’m always open to discussion.
End of review….but not the end.
Now I am going to discuss something that’s near and dear to me but that did not influence my review above and if you follow my blog you’ll already suspect what that is….the cover. To ensure I wasn’t simply voicing my own graphically inclined opinion I sent this cover to several different people, none of whom do graphics in order to ask what it made them think of. I never said what the book was about, never told them my thoughts on it and each person said “golf.” Truthfully, I did’t expect everyone to say that but they did.
So, why am I bringing this up? Here’s why…do you think this author really intended for potential readers to look at this and think “golf”….of course not. This is about one man’s pilgrimage, it’s a very personal accounting of his journey. So I’m not going to try to tell this author what he should have done but I do want to give some tips to those authors attempting to do their own covers if they cannot afford to hire someone like myself to help them out. I’m a realist, I understand not everyone can afford to have a book cover done for them.
Anita’s Book Cover Tips
- These first two points are important so they kind of go together Always use a clear font, don’t get fancy. Remember your book cover will be taken down to a thumbnail online and many fonts will disappear at that size….you want people to be able to read your title! Use strong, clean, uncomplicated fonts. Also, don’t mess with the kerning and leading unless you know what you are doing. If you don’t know what those words mean then you don’t know how they affect the font…don’t mess with them!
NEVER…let me repeat that NE-VER put red text on a blue background! I don’t care if it’s a light blue back ground with red text of any hue…if I catch you doing that, I will find you and publicly shame you. No, seriously that color combination is a tricky one even for professionals to pull off and often bleeds together making it very difficult to read, just don’t do it.
- Avoid using too much of the same color. The cover for this book is a good example of what not to do here. With the cover to this book I believe that if the author had not used a green filter over the photographs he would have been much more successful conveying that the subject of the photo was in fact walking on a path. Using the green filter on the photographs combined with the different greens in the background does end up making the photos look as though he is walking on a golf course because all the green blends together. I didn’t even realize initially the man is shirtless.
- ALWAYS use high resolution images (300 dpi at least), particularly if you must use a photograph. You can always take an image down in size if it is too large without losing resolution but you cannot enlarge it and maintain resolution. You may be thinking “but Anita, it looks just great on my computer screen when I do that.” Sure, it very well may look good on your screen, but screen resolution and print resolution are not the same; in fact they are drastically different. Note* If you can see a fuzzy line around images in your photo it has done what is called dithering….this is an easy visual clue that you do not have a high enough resolution image to begin with.
- Last…make sure to send your cover out to several different people who will be extremely honest with you. Ask for their opinions and suggestions. I’m a professional and I still do this, I have several people I know will give me the hard truth when I need it and there have been times they’ve given me a well deserved reality check.
Keep these tips in mind and if you have a cover that you want an honest opinion on send it my way, I’ll be happy to give guidance and as always….if you do need someone to help you design a cover for you feel free to contact me either through this page or through my website at www.cyber-bytz.com, I am quite confident I can do it affordably for you.