2 Stars · Bust · France · Sports · WW1

Who knew the Tour de France was so interesting? Sprinting Through No Man’s Land: Endurance, Tragedy, and Rebirth in the 1919 Tour de France by Adin Dobkin

This was another Kindle first reads book. Again, the title got me. These Kindle first reads authors are great at choosing titles! I’m not a huge cyclist, but have some friends who compete and find the entire premise of long distance cycling to be so intriguing.

Rather than a full history of the Tour de France, Dobkin chose to focus on a single year, 1919. This makes the book less a history and more of a detailed account of the 1919 race.

Let’s start with the good stuff. Dobkin definitely did his research and the book is jam packed with historical facts about France, WWI, cycling and the towns the tour passed through. I learned so much about cycling that I’d never thought of before, like how the riders had to fully self support, carrying their own tubes, food and water. The tidbits of history for each town were also extremely interesting. I would have liked to know more about the types of bikes they road, how much they weighed, etc. It was also interesting to read about all of the cheating that was so rampant during the early Tour de France days. It seems like cheating has always been an integral part of the race!

What’s frustrating is the way Dobkin has put the book together. He follows multiple riders, rather than just a single rider and chapters jump from focusing on the various riders to mini history lessons. These sidebar lessons frequently don’t relate or add much to the story of 1919 Tour de France. The photos included weren’t always applicable either. While the descriptions of each town or pass are quite thorough, the writing get bogged down and you’ve got to slog through a lot it.

Interesting topic, but this book tends to read like a research paper with a minimum word count requirement. Like A Well Read Woman, the author may have been better off diving into historical fiction.


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