Sunday 17 January 1999
(Little, Brown, pounds 16.99)
A letter arrives. "You know you want to. Just say yes. P." So begins Rosie Thomas's quest to complete the second Peking to Paris motor rally.
The P in the letter is Phil Bowen, who organised an earlier adventure Rosie undertook to the Himalayas and Everest. The confident and vain twentysomething and Rosie - soon to be 50, author and mother of two - make an interesting team and this book is as much about the trials of their relationship as the rally itself.
Unable to admit any weakness, Phil is not an ideal team player. This creates much in-car tension - and entertainment - as he is unable to hand over control to Rosie, whether it be driving or navigating. The story has many comic moments, such as when Rosie visits a Chinese pharmacist and has to draw a picture of a tampon to get what she needs - to the great interest of a growing crowd in the shop. There are nail-biting times, too; mid-race, she suffers a life-threatening uterine haemorrhage. Unable to find the correct medication she is barred from continuing by the race doctor. But minutes before the race starts up again, she gets the pills.
The speed of the race means the book can touch only lightly on countries and peoples. And another country, another day behind the wheel can make the story feel a little repetitive.
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