Review: The Valley or Heaven and Hell by Susie Kelly

Published by Lyn on 13 April 2013

Guest reviewer Jacqueline Brown joins Susie Kelly as she cycles around France in the shadow of Marie Antoinette in her book, The Valley or Heaven and Hell. 

The Valley of Heaven and HellOh Susie!  What have you done?

I walked with you and your blisters as you wandered from La Rochelle to Geneva in Best Foot Forward - A 500-Mile Walk Through Hidden France, often tired, cold, wet and hungry. This time you have taken off for three weeks on a bike in The Valley of Heaven and Hell, despite admitting to not being a natural cyclist. It seems a little crazy and I have to ask why?

Ah, I see, Terry wanted an adventure and the Marie Antoinette route was quite interesting, following her final footsteps from Versailles to the east, along the Marne Valley. I suppose it was nice not to go it alone, and you did get a new bike with the added bonus of some electric assistance and a baking tray, but, honestly, cycling in Paris, what were you thinking? I love Paris and I love cycling too, but I’m not sure I’m brave enough to mix the two together. (Lyn @ FWF says: Jacqui, you should take our cycling in Paris safety quiz and read our top tips for cycling in Paris...)

On a reader entertainment level, this book is brilliant. Your descriptions of your red-faced, Lycra-clad reflection had me chuckling and I sympathised with you watching Terry disappearing (I, too, am often left way behind when out cycling with my husband).

The cycle camping was a surprise. though, I didn’t think I’d be reading about more ill-equipped nights spent cold and uncomfortable under canvas. Although I was pleased to read you did at least get a few nights of luxury in the odd hotel this time.

I also have to thank you: in addition to the laughs, you also educated me. Marie Antoinette was not someone I knew very much about, but your journey and your writings brought her story to life. It is not often that a book entertains as well as informs, and I’m glad I now know there is so much more to her than the misattributed quote “Let them eat cake”. Thank you, Susie.

The Valley Of Heaven And Hell: Cycling In The Shadow Of Marie Antoinette by Susie Kelly is out now. Susie Kelly is also the author of other France-based books, including Best Foot Forward: From La Rochelle to Lake Geneva: The Misadventures of an Englishwoman, Swallows & Robins The Guests in my Garden, and Travels With Tinkerbelle: 6,000 Miles Around France In A Mechanical Wreck.

Jacqueline runs the excellent French Village Diaries blog. This review first appeared on her blog.
Jacqueline and her family like nothing better than packing a picnic and setting off for the day to follow one of the many marked bike routes around the French countryside. 



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