Friday, 27 January 2012

Book review: Are we nearly there yet? By Ben Hatch. A distillation of human nature in 8,023 miles

Ben Hatch’s idea of working from home was to drive around Britain with his wife and two young children reviewing tourist destinations for a guidebook. It’s the sort of misadventure you have to be insane to attempt and this entertaining book shows that Mr and Mrs Hatch are certifiably mad, but also comfortingly normal.

The definition of a holiday changes for many people when you have young children. In pre-parent life it could involve adventure, partying or extreme relaxation and sunburn. Once you have a mini-me or two there is an added element of survival. Arriving home is viewed with a touch of relief that you’re back to having all those things to hand that makes living with small people that much easier.

The thought of ‘being on holiday’ for five months with two under-fours is enough to frighten most confident parents. Even worse, these mad people rented their house out while they were away so there was no return if it all got too much – which of course it does at times.

There are two surprising aspects to this book. Firstly, that the family adapts surprisingly well. Secondly, the way that the sheer honesty and unforeseen events result in book covering every aspect of human nature. Ben Hatch doesn’t hold back from covering any of the situations ranging from marital problems to professional jealousy and the decline of a terminal ill close relative.

His writing cleverly gives equal screen time to both sides of the marriage when there are arguments or comic moments. He may be the butt of most of the jokes but his wife doesn’t escape (especially with her irrational fear of anything that remotely resembles a tortoise) and there are a multitude of observations of the children that will make all parents nod and smile.

This makes it a heart-warming mix of toe-curling amusement, deep sadness and light-hearted entertainment. If Disney did travel anecdote book films they would want to do this, but they wouldn’t get anywhere close to the true charm of the book – the warts and all reality. However, they would definitely cut a certain scene involving a hapless toothbrush. You’ll have to read the book to experience this little horror.

You can find Are we nearly yet? on Amazon and you can follow Ben Hatch on Twitter here.

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