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Item #: BK2379-110
THE FELLOWSHIP OF GHOSTS A JOURNEY THROUGH THE MOUNTAINS OF NORWAY Paul Watkins Hardcover DJ Fine
By Watkins, Paul
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Washington D.C., 2004, 1st ed. 288 pp. Hardcover with dust jacket. Fine.

If you're a travel buff or fantasize about travel, you'll find this tale of Watkins' journey through the mountainous terrain of central Norway a page turner. His descriptions of landscapes are vivid. Additionally, he acquaints the reader with the people, customs, and foods of the area. In fact, he does a phenomenal job such that if you really get into the book, you'll feel as if you've traveled to central Norway yourself. He carries books by those before him who have already made the journey. He uses previous tales of Norwegian travels to guide his tour. These are his ghosts, i.e. the ones before him. He constantly refers to these previous works, giving the reader a synopsis of previous travels by others in addition to the vivid description of his own account. 
 
Watkins' 'The Fellowship of Ghosts' is equal parts highly readable travelogue and introspective musings as the author hikes and travels through the mountains of Central Norway. The ghosts of the title are earlier, mostly English, authors who wrote about their travels in the mountains of Norway: Watkins travels much of the same ground and notes what has and has not changed. As an American graduate of an English boarding school, the author is in a position to critique his predecessors.

Watkins' interest in Norway is stirred when, as a college student working on a fishing boat, he is injured in an accident. During his convalescence, a shipmate entertains him with stories of his Norwegian homeland. Watkins is enthralled by the stories and visits as soon as he is well. The experience never quite leaves him, and the present book is oriented around Watkins' second visit many years later.

The area of Watkins's travel is Central Norway, specifically the Rondale, Jotunheimen, and Dovrefjell ranges, beautiful and still largely underdeveloped country. Watkins' observant eye captures a series of vignettes of the fickle weather, the austere tourist facilities, the magnificent terrain, and of his sense of mysticism inspired by the experience of being there. In these mountains, man is not the center of the universe and defines himself against an epic natural landscape. Watkins finds both the outer beauty of the mountains and a measure of inner peace.

Part of Watkins's commentary is a comparison of the marauding Viking stereotype against the kind and honest, if stoic, Norwegians with whom he has contact. Watkins touches on the long history and extensive mythology of Norway in a manner that provides context to his travels and to the Norwegian customs he encounters. Watkins' prose is wry and entertaining, often at his own expense as an American who speaks virtually no Norwegian.

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