Author: Jean Mitchell-Lanham
Two Harbors Press, Minneapolis USA, 2015 180pp.
ISBN-13:978 1 63413 333 3
Available from www.bookdepository.com US$17.30 AUD$24.15
This book is one the latest, and most eclectic, informative and best researched contributions to the burgeoning litera- ture on the Camino, which I became aware of when I had the good fortune to walk awhile with its author, Jean Mitchell-Lanham, on the Camino Portugués this year.
Mitchell-Lanham, a retired Californian professor of Romance languages has specialised since the 1970s in
Spanish medieval literature, something manifest in a book which aptly uses in its title Lore – defined as ‘all of the knowledge about a particular subject, especial- ly that of a traditional nature’. She has also twice walked the Camino Francés, which is the focus for the book. Interspersed throughout are often wry, humorous bits as well as tips from her walking experience which would resonate with many pilgrims. One of the miracles she gives thanks to St James for in her prologue is that “I lost nearly 13 kilos, lowered my cholesterol by 56 points and my distance vision returned to 20/20”! Among the book’s walking tips are “Always go at your own pace”, and “Never leave home without your walking poles”, the latter in part because “they are great navigating tools in a heavy fog”!
However the distinction of the book is that it provides a different view of the Camino by guiding the reader to the literary creations on or near it, with insights and commentary by the author. It does so in eleven intriguingly titled chapters, examples of which are Legends of the scallop shell and the Oca, Construction workers and ‘fowl play’, Camino miracles and, the final chapter about St James, Missionary-pilgrim and Matamoros. Perhaps the most surprising chapter, but which doubtless would resonate most with its American readers, is Meeting Papa Hemingway and the gang of nine – Ernest Hemingway in the 1920s spent time in Burguete and Pamplona
The Lore of the Camino is a reasonably priced and nicely produced book, with a very readable font, and an attractive cover. Two Harbors Press deserves congrat- ulations, as certainly does the author, for facilitating its availability as a unique, informative, enjoyable, and thus highly commended addition to the corpus of Camino literature. All pilgrims – past, present, and prospective – should consider investing in it.
“Here’s something to ponder. As the pilgrimage grows every year, so will new stories. What stories will be gleaned from these pilgrims in the next millennium?” What stories indeed.