Emily Chappel’s Where There’s A Will
I am an absolutely avid reader of books, reading for at least an hour every night. In fact, if I don’t read before going to sleep I find it disconcerting, so entrenched is my routine.
Cycling books are a particular passion of mine – my cycling library takes up the entire bottom shelf of my bookcase and I love slotting a new edition in, should I deem in worthy. As we live in a small house, not every book is kept after reading; those that might appeal to friends and family are saved till I’ve time to deliver them in person, those I’ve enjoyed but can’t imagine myself reading again go to the charity shop or the local shop’s book sharing shelf.
My library is by no means comprehensive but I do really enjoy books by or about women. Therefore I feel slightly bad about the fact I haven’t read Emily Chappel’s previous publication ‘What Goes Around,’ which is about her time as a bike courier in London. Particularly seeing as I was a bike courier at the same time as she was (though not for half as long)!
Her new book, ‘Where There’s A Will’ has been highly anticipated. ‘What Goes Around’ garnered great reviews and Emily is a very inspiring woman who has grown in her influence over the last few years. She’s incredibly smart, passionate, knowledgeable and even a little intimidating (just because she’s so amazing! She is actually very nice) so it was eye-opening to hear just how vulnerable she can be.
The book is mainly about Emily’s participation in The Transcontinental, a long-distance, unsupported race across Europe that’s become legendary amongst cyclists, spawning a multitude of new events and inspiring an interest ultra racing for many who’d never even considered it.
But it’s more than that. It’s about a woman’s battle with herself and her perceived limitations, what drives her to push herself to her limits (and beyond) and about mental health. Some of the book is very sad – there were points where I asked myself why she was doing it, even why anyone would do it and I’d hope she found more joy in the ride that it can appear. Perhaps the difficult moments made the bigger impression and therefore have more page space. Or maybe they did outweigh the good.
Besides the race itself, (although very much entwined with it) the book speaks of Emily’s grief at losing a close friend. It’s not a tale of how she ‘dealt with it,’ so don’t expect an uplifting or cathartic ending; it gently explores grief’s nooks and crannies.
I loved the book as it was so well written. Emily’s prose is wonderful, she is so descriptive and writes beautifully. I’d frequently find myself re-reading a paragraph thinking ‘how does she come up with this stuff – incredible!’
Aside from that, I enjoyed it as a cyclist who is interested in pushing herself and trying new things. There have been (indeed are) many occasions where I think ‘I couldn’t do that, only superhuman, stronger, fitter, more determined people could cope.’ This book makes me realise that we are all more alike than I’d realised – not to detract from Emily’s amazing achievements! It just humanized a hero.
And made me think that maybe, just maybe I could do something way out of my comfort zone too – maybe I could do a big self-supported race on my own too if I’m willing to push through the dark moments.
Where There’s a Will is published by Pusuit Books. You can buy it via my affiliate store here.