A brilliant follow-up to Step by Step, this book can also be read as a standalone. The concept of ‘impossible places’ includes far-flung corners of the planet but can also be personal situations. The book is a mix of memoir and journalism. Bookended by the adventures during the pandemic with his son Jake and his dogs, Obi and Lyla, in Dartmoor, the content covers these programmes: Tropic of Capricorn, Tropic of Cancer, Indian Ocean, Pilgrimage and Sacred Rivers. In between explorations and behind the scenes, Simon talks about the struggle to become a father after leaving it quite late (he and his wife Anya were travelling so much and then they turned 40) and being told that he was basically infertile. It might possibly be a bit too much information for some readers as there is little holding back, but there is the same brutal honesty and deeper questioning that can be found in the global issues which dominate the book.
There are heartbreaking moments, shockers and also a lot of humour. It’s very much a book about people, the amazing strength, kindness and resourcefulness of individuals, while the majority of people are simply trying to survive and humanity in general is having a terrible effect on wildlife and the environment. There are new things to learn, even if you’ve already seen all of Simon’s programmes, read his books and seen him on tour. If you’re a Simon fan then it’s a must-read, but it’s written and structured in a way that means you don’t need to have prior knowledge. Even the infamous ‘zebu penis soup’ anecdote gets another airing, in case you’ve somehow missed it before. Luckily it’s not included in the photo section this time. The photos are a mixture of family snaps and travel adventures.
In summary, a recommended read which will leave a lasting impression.
Published in 2021 by Hodder and Stoughton. This is the Waterstones signed edition which has an extra chapter about the Nile.