Nimmo, who trekked from Canterbury to Santiago de Compostela in Pilgrim Snail (2001), here follows the Vikings’ trail back to Scandinavia.
The author, 31, studied medieval literature and pursued doctoral studies in the Heroic Age of the Germanic peoples before boredom with academic writing sent him to Cornwall to teach scuba diving. That led him to South America and romance with a woman whose murder prompted the England-to-Spain trek. (He was raising money for her memorial charity.) “Wherever I walked, history, art and literature came spilling out around me,” Nimmo recalls of his earlier journey. Wanting to see Europe in a more systematic manner, he ended up blending his fascination with medieval literature and his love of life on the water. A millennium earlier, the author tells us, England had been under the Danish rule of Svein Forkbeard. Though that invasion was quickly overshadowed by the Norman Conquest, “I’d always believed that the English have much more in common with the people of Scandinavia than with our southern neighbors,” Nimmo writes. He decided to go see for himself. And what better way to make the educational journey than by sea, Viking style? He bought a boat, hired a crew, drew up a route, and launched. Svein Forkbeard had traveled by water across the Baltic and the North Sea to conquer England; Nimmo more or less reversed Forkbeard's watery path. He was hoping to meet lots of interesting people and encounter some surprises. Both goals were met in full, and Nimmo’s pleasant sampling of his adventures in once-heroic, now-civilized lands captures the good times and bad.
Convoluted sentences fail to convey the author’s muddled thoughts, but often enough he sweeps readers along on charm alone.