Book review – Ventoux by Bert Wagendorp

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A work of fiction about cycling? With plenty of real cycling tales being told is there room for cycling fiction? With fictional novels being very subjective I’ll try my best to give an idea of the story’s appeal without spoiling the plot – if it appeals, read it. Personally; I wasn’t sure at first, but I have read it and I have to say, for me it was a bit of a page turner. I was engrossed. If I was to sum up what it’s about I’d say friendship and growing up, but it’s also contains sex, drugs, poetry and cycling.  Intrigued? I thought you might be. 

This book was originally published in Dutch in 2013, only being translated and published in English in 2015. My initial thoughts upon beginning the book were that it was obvious at first that it was translated (there were a few places when I felt I could have offered more suitable translations) and it took me a few chapters to get used to the style of it. There is not much description, and sentences are short and efficient. Chapters too are very short and often the “scene” that is set is just a conversation to display the relationship between and personality of the characters. It was little surprise to discover that the book had been adapted from a film script (film script commissioned in 2010, book released in Dutch 2013, film released in Dutch in 2015). As the book unfolds the style really works, and it becomes a pleasure to read.

It’s an easy book to identify with, as it’s all about friendship and the six characters that form the group are very different. I’d say most people could associate with some part of the character’s personality or history as pretty much everything is covered. From different personalities and talents as teenagers to a variety of different circumstances 30 years later. It’s about growing up and the friends you had in school, about that trip you went on before you didn’t see each other for years. The friends that you could say offensive things to as a greeting and it all be perfectly acceptable (I definitely had these growing up). The whole nostalgic feeling being brought back by reliving your youth 30 years later in different circumstances. It’s pure entertainment, a classic holiday read; or in my case a glimpse of summer sunshine in winter. For the reader closer to middle age it’ll perhaps be an inspiration to do something similar or seek out old friends. There are plenty of MAMILs (Middle Age Men In Lycra) out there and for the MAMIL this book has the potential to become a cult classic, it has a feel good factor about it.  

Sure you could pick the technical details to pieces, like riding up the Ventoux with an old race spec bike (assumed small close ratio cassette) and a 42 tooth front chain ring doesn’t match the fitness required/time achieved ratio in my head. But the book is not about the technical details, you will not learn anything about actually cycling Mont Ventoux from this book (for that read this), but you will probably be inspired to get some friends together and go ride it, and that’s what the book is really about.

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5 thoughts on “Book review – Ventoux by Bert Wagendorp

  1. I read the book in Dutch (of course) and I liked it very much. I even saw the film, with a slidely different plot than the book. And now it is also in the Dutch theaters as a play. For the MT Ventoux-addict.

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