Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

WHERE THERE’S A WILL by Emily Chappell book review

  • Written by  Olivia Edward
  • Published in Books
WHERE THERE’S A WILL by Emily Chappell book review
06 Mar
2020
by Emily Chappell • Profile • £14.99 (hardback)

As if cycling 4,000km across Europe wasn’t challenging enough, the entrants of the Transcontinental amateur cycling race attempt to complete it in the shortest number of days possible meaning sleep is snatched in bus stops, cafés and fields. The leaders get by on 20 minutes a day, Chappell feels indulgent taking an hour but still she obsesses over sleep ‘the way an anorexic obsesses about food, unable to think about anything but what I denied myself, constantly making plans I wouldn’t allow myself to carry out.’

Get Geographical delivered to your door!
signup buttonGeographical has been in print since 1935, during which time we have reported on many thousands of global issues, allowing readers to look past the boundaries and borders of their world. Our monthly print magazine costs £9.50 for three months, or £38 for a year. We hope you will conisder joining us. 

Dropping out of the race on her first attempt, she ends up winning it a few years later but this is almost the least interesting part of the book. Instead what makes her account so compelling is her acute awareness of her inner emotional terrain. At the start of a race she relays her ‘body beginning to fizz with excitement, as if someone were opening bottles of champagne behind her rib cage’. Later she leaves her self-doubt behind like a ‘skin I’d sloughed off or a chrysalis I’d emerged from’.

But the vacillation returns, and she enters the now-familiar-to-her sobbing phase of a race – surprising this time with its sense of peace. ‘Nothing snapped or cracked or shattered. Instead it felt more like a melting; a gentle delicate collapse, like a body falling exhaustedly into sleep.’ To keep pedalling she imagines herself cycling in a peloton of everyone she knows, or breaks impossible-seeming inclines down into chunks and spends 30 minutes in the imaginary company of a woman she finds inspiring.

There’s beauty here too – the sensual joy of cycling under apricot skies that smell of lavender or the aesthetics of riding at dusk, the ‘discreetly spaced pools of light cast by people’s dynamos staggered up towards the sky as if mounting a ladder into the darkness’.

But, in the main, this is a book about modern-day courage. The guts and emotional mess of it. A reminder that you can be determined and irresolute, brave and absolutely broken, and how real courage can only exist in the presence of fear.

Stay connected with the Geographical newsletter!
signup buttonIn these turbulent times, we’re committed to telling expansive stories from across the globe, highlighting the everyday lives of normal but extraordinary people. Stay informed and engaged with Geographical.

Get Geographical’s latest news delivered straight to your inbox every Friday!

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in REVIEWS...

Films

The Ocean Film Festival World Tour 2020 brings the water…

Films

2020 has, for many of us, been a dramatic year.…

Films

One woman’s determined plot to tackle multi-national industry through activism…

Films

Acclaimed documentarian Ron Howard brings an intimate depiction of the…

Books

September’s top non-fiction reads

Books

• by Andri Snær Magnason • Serpent’s Tail

Books

August’s top non-fiction reads

Books

By Dawn Bébe and Juliet Coombe • £25 (hardback)

Books

by David Farrier • Fourth Estate • £11.96 (hardback) 

Books

by Jini Reddy • Bloomsbury • £11.89 (hardback)

Books

by James Boyce • Icon Books • £12.99 (hardback)

Books

 by Peter Wilson • £38.99 (hardback)