The view from here
Robyn ‘Rob’ Davidson is a woman with a plan. She plans to walk across the Australian outback, from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean, with just herself, her beloved dog Diggity, and some wild camels. Only, like all good stories, her plan doesn’t quite go to plan. Tracks is a glimpse into what really happened to Robyn out there in the dust, all alone, yet not alone enough…
To be completely honest, I struggled with this book at first, or at least with the style in which it was written. However, once I realised it was written in the 70s, I could see past some of the things that seemed slightly disturbing to me at first.
Although I felt like her narrative style was lacking a bit of flow at times, and felt a bit hard to follow, I warmed to Robyn more and more, page by page. I managed to “get” her and her story; what this journey meant to her, what she struggled with, and the way she was looking at things. By the end, I could see the story from her perspective, and understand (to a certain extent) the feelings she experienced during her incredible journey.
Most of all, I felt the story was about trying to ‘get free’, and what it even means to be free. I try to tell myself all the time to break away from restricting habits and to keep challenging myself. I think Robyn’s story is a great reminder of how hard it can sometimes be to make your own decisions and to take your journey into your own hands, without letting anything or anyone hold you back.
Favourite quote: “To be free one needs constant and unrelenting vigilance over one’s weaknesses. A vigilance which requires a moral energy most of us are incapable of manufacturing. We relax back into the moulds of habit. They are secure, they bind us and keep us contained at the expense of freedom. To break the moulds, to be heedless of the seductions of security is an impossible struggle, but one of the few that count. To be free is to learn, to test yourself constantly, to gamble."
To sum up a lot of feelings I had while reading this book, I would say that I really wanted to “get” Robyn but she didn't care to be understood. While I admired her candid honesty and feminist insight, I found myself puzzled with her ability to be both totally self aware and yet utterly clueless at the same time.
Her strength, courage and hard-won ability is enough to impress anyone, but her indignance about sharing the experience was irritating. I understand the need to do things on your own and experience things in a certain way but the obsession with being independent got tiresome after a while. Her head and heart were in constant conflict and the lack of any sort of vulnerability (except for Diggity) was difficult to relate to - but again her intention never was to relate.
Overall, I feel conflicted because there are so many lessons of strength and infusions of wisdom in there but they feel to me almost like they are being doled out begrudgingly, alongside a middle finger. And with the postscript came no real reprieve. Robyn tried to distance herself slightly from the woman she was and viewed the story as a separate entity but I think she missed the point - when you put something out there, it is no longer yours but is now the perception of everyone reading it. Just like the desert - not hers but her perception of it in that space and time.
The story was truly unique and worth reading - I read through it quickly, eager to find out more about this woman full of constant surprises. It was also very frustrating as this is the journey of an unapologetically flawed character who won’t grant you the reflective conclusions you naturally crave.
Favourite quote: “The trip had never been billed in my mind as an adventure in the sense of something to be proved. And it struck me then that the most difficult thing had been the decision to act, the rest had been merely tenacity - and the fears were paper tigers. One really could act to change and control one’s life; and the procedure, the process, was its own reward.”
The things I found the most frustrating about this book are also the things I found the most fascinating - as is often the way. Robyn is an anti-hero. She refuses to conform to the reader’s expectations, is often unrelatable (and sometimes unlikeable), and leaves a lot of questions unanswered.
The anti-hero is common in literature, but in memoir, it’s something else altogether.
Most people write memoirs to explore the innermost workings of their minds, as a process of self-reflection. It appears Robyn wrote this memoir out of a sense of obligation, or perhaps defence?
Whatever her motives, Tracks is unlike anything else I’ve ever read, and I know it will play on my mind for months to come. Raw, hostile, confronting - yet beautiful and moving at the same time. Not unlike the Australian outback, I imagine.
Favourite quote: “It’s important that we leave each other and the comfort of it, and circle away, even though it’s hard sometimes, so that we can come back and swap information about what we’ve learnt even if what we do changes us and we risk not recognizing each other when we return.”
What did you think of Tracks? Share your thoughts in the comments below!