The plan seemed straight forward enough.
Travel 8,000 miles around England writing up notes on family travel. How hard could that be? Not so bad, you might think, until you add in two small children (Phoebe (4) and Charlie (2), and the family’s not-so-spacious Vauxhall Astra. Oh, and mix in some family drama. Then stir.The result is Ben Hatch’s very funny, yet moving book Are we nearly there yet.
I’d heard about Ben’s book via Twitter and assumed it would be a funny read. I wasn’t disappointed. It is funny, but perhaps more importantly – to me at least – is that the book really takes the reader on a journey of her own. It doesn’t gloss over the difficult details of family relationships, and Hatch is happy to reveal his past when he was, as he puts it, ‘a bit of a shit’. He doesn’t gloss over the disastrous moments; when the family’s journey appears to be over before it’s really begun, or the medical problems that see him spend a night in hospital. He doesn’t even spare himself the embarrassment of revealing some of the more comedic moments when he is himself, the object of humour. I have to say, I’ve never heard of a toothbrush being used in that way before!
I’m impressed by this honesty, particularly when he talks about the very real anxiety and grief surrounding his father’s illness. We feel we really get to know his ‘lovely Dad’, not to mention Ben’s wife Dinah and their two children. It’s a rare gift, being able to write about a personal experience with just the right touch – that doesn’t turn the story into soap opera, or become embarrassingly intrusive, and somehow capitalises on the family’s experiences. I often reflected on my own unfinished memoir, as I read Ben Hatch’s, and felt emboldened by his treatment to reveal some of the more difficult bits of our story.
I found myself moved to tears, often by the sadness, sometimes by the laughter. But more than anything else I was tired when I’d finished. The very best stories take you on a journey, and Are We Nearly There Yet is no exception to this rule. I read the last page slowly, reluctant to leave the family I’d grown fond of alone in their home in Brighton. I wanted to linger just a little longer at the window, eavesdropping on hilarious conversations like this one:
“Why were you naughty?” persists Phoebe.
“I teased Mummy.”
“That’s not very nice, Daddy.”
“Say sorry to Mummy.”
“I have done.”
“Say it again, more nicer.”
Are We Nearly There yet is charming not syrupy, funny not slapstick, moving not melodrama. All kudos to Ben Hatch who has now become my latest travel memoir idol.
Available through the Amazon link above, or via Amazon Kindle download (below) for a mere £1.
Honestly, I don’t know how you could resist.