My ‘reread reviews’ have finally caught up with my ‘new reviews’, which means I’m allowed to pick new books to read, that aren’t dictated by my book club! (I realise that permission to break this self-imposed rule is unnecessary and a little ridiculous: that’s just the way my brain works.) I was excited to pick Michal Booth because, as well as being a present from another Michael, I absolutely loved his book Sushi and Beyond. I’ve read a number of his books since, trying to find that same level of delight in his writings about other places, cultures and foods. I’ve mostly been unsuccessful, which does make me wonder whether perhaps that one book was exactly that, a one-off. I was especially doubtful at the beginning of Just As Well I’m Leaving, because Michael Booth seemed pretty dour about not only his location, but the main topic of the book: Hans Christian Andersen.
I was on my own, with only my unflinching resolve to fall back on.Just as Well I’m Leaving, Michael Booth
I gave up.
Things did pick up once Booth started reading some of Andersen’s stories, realising that there was more to be enjoyed in the originals than in whatever English translations he’d previously come across. Which did, of course, make me want to seek out a decent translation myself. As with Charlotte Street, the slightly whiny beginning gave way to a better middle and end, even if Just as Well I’m Leaving doesn’t reach the height of Sushi and Beyond (which I need to reread, now, in case it’s not the book but my memory that’s responsible).
Without a companion to whinge at and bore with his various ailments and fears, he seems to have just got on with things and coped so much better; by looking outward at the world, he found a brief inner peace.Just as Well I’m Leaving, Michael Booth
Having read a number of Michael Booth’s books now, I’d say Just as Well I’m Leaving falls solidly in the middle of the pack. It’s better than Eat, Pray, Eat and The Almost Nearly Perfect People, not as good as Sushi and Beyond, at about the same level as Doing Without Delia, albeit on rather a different subject matter. There’s not much food in Just as Well I’m Leaving, which is perhaps the problem for me, as what I enjoyed most about Sushi and Beyond was the descriptions of Japanese chefs and restaurants. But I do like fairy tales, so Just as Well I’m Leaving managed to hold my interest, and I learned a great deal about Hans Christian Andersen that I wouldn’t otherwise have known. It also got me thinking about travel, which I haven’t done much of lately, so I can give it an extra half star for that.