Author: Ben Donald
Title: Springtime for Germany
Length: several months?
kill the „travel coach“!
[Note: I can’t say anything about the original English edition, because oddly enough, all I got was the German translation: Deutschland for beginners]
The story: BD is a British journalist who formerly used to love traveling but has somehow grown sick of it. He then runs into a guy who claims to be a sort of „travel coach“ and gets sent to Germany by said guy. Well, Germany doesn’t sound like that much fun at first, but BD seems to start to enjoy it after a while, and he returns for some more visits later on. In fact he is all over the place. Tracing down the birthplaces of German fairytales. Looking into the business of buying and selling castles. Checking out nudist beaches. All over the place. His „travel coach“ is always there to point him through the underbrush of German clichés and non-clichés, and in the end, BD has not only learned a lot about Germany and the Germans, but he has also regained his former love for traveling.
Ben Donald introducing romantic educators
The core of the book is very good. BD doesn’t care to skip over any of the worn out clichés, but his writing manages to stay fresh and humorous for the most part, so it doesn’t really get boring. I liked his thoughts on the great educators of Germany in the 19th century, like the „father of gymnastics“ Friedrich Ludwig Jahn and Sebastian Kneipp, that hydrotherapy guy. Also, BD offers a few interesting links between some of the more „typical“ German attributes and the movement of Romanticism (also 19th century), something definitely making this book worth a read. So yes, it was a good book. It could have been excellent. If only BD had gotten rid of the „travel coach“!
editors at work?
Honestly, it looks like someone in the publishing house just said something like „you need to have more of a storyline!“ or „can’t you have another person who kind of reflects your own observations?“ – so BD had to come up with his weird „travel coach“. This guy is a character so strangely devoid of any credibility that he manages to propel the entire story into an obscure twilight somewhere between fact and fiction. As a reader, you get left in the dark: this part that you are reading, does it belong to the fictional account or is it part of BD’s factual travelogue? This is just tiring.
For me, the book would have been more easily accessible if BD had killed the „travel coach“, it would have been a bit shorter and a lot better.