One Man's Europe

Non-Fiction - Travel
299 Pages
Reviewed on 10/17/2022
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers' Favorite

“Why do we travel?” It’s an age-old question, one that faces all of us at one time or another. Some of us travel far; others merely to the next village, but we all travel somewhere, at some time in our lives. And, what we see and experience in these travels changes us, perhaps even matures us, preparing us for what is yet to come, by helping us understand what has been. “The world is a wonderful place, full of wonderful people who are, on the whole, just like you and me. They do the best with what they have and try and make life better for their children. … We are all part of one great family. A Union.” Gordon Nicholas spent twenty years traveling around post-WWII Europe, seeking meaning for his life and the life of the world around him. His travels were epic, soul-searching journeys of body, mind, and spirit, one that he shared in his journals, paintings (yes, he was a talented artist), and souvenirs. His experiences as shared in his journals are adventures we can all learn from and appreciate.

Gordon Nicholas’s travelogue, One Man’s Europe, is a travelogue that recounts one man’s journeys through a Europe struggling to regain its foothold after two devastating world wars. With an introduction written by his son, the journals, written by Gordon during and after his travels, opens the eyes of readers around the world to a sense of adventure, but also to a better understanding of what it truly means to be a citizen of the world. That was Gordon’s ultimate goal as he sought to find himself, to place himself as one aspiring to live in a new world order, one that sees no boundaries in time, place, language, or culture. We are all one. This is a fascinating and insightful read. I love the illustrations, especially Gordon’s paintings.

Joe Wisinski

One Man's Europe by Gordon Nicholas is an account of the author’s travels around the continent after the end of World War II. The book covers a timeframe of almost 20 years. Europe was still recovering from the war, and although healing and rebuilding were occurring, reminders of the war were to be found everywhere. Furthermore, a new threat was emerging as the Soviet Union, the Iron Curtain, and the threat of nuclear weapons cast shadows over Europe. It was also a time of new technology, such as Sputnik, and it was against this backdrop that Nicholas traveled. The book reflects what he found, including numerous photographs, with many in color, which illustrate the then-current state of Europe as seen through the author’s eyes.

Lovers of travel, especially European travel, need to read One Man's Europe. Unlike many travel books, it’s not merely a dry recitation of what the author saw. Gordon Nicholas writes about life in Europe in post-World War II days, but throughout the book, he interweaves his findings and reflections, as well as the historical climate. Those who are interested in what living in the countries of Holland, Belgium, and Switzerland were like, as well as the cities of Rome, Paris, and Vienna, will find this book fascinating. They will see, through Nicholas’ eyes, the people of Europe, as well as the places to be found on the continent. The many photographs are beautiful and also tell much about life in the areas the author describes. Because Nicholas did his traveling in the 1950s and 1960s it will be interesting for those who are familiar with modern-day Europe to compare that with what it was like in previous years.

Foluso Falaye

One Man's Europe chronicles Gordon Nicholas' travels through Europe over 20 years, beginning in the post-war 1950s. Gordon Nicholas exposes historical facts, personal viewpoints, the impact of World War II, and people's daily lives in terms of the locations he visited. The ruins and buildings shrouded in black soot in Rotterdam lead him to confront the brutal reality of war. He had the good fortune to visit The Hague, a spacious and cheery city where young and old coexisted in peaceful harmony. A discussion concerning religious exploitation is sparked by the devotion of pilgrims to the purportedly miraculous water in Lourdes. Ultimately, Gordon continually gained fresh insights into the similarities between all people and the meaninglessness of boundaries and nationalities through every new encounter he had and the places he visited.

This book has a lot of positive things going for it. One is the writing style, which provides a well-balanced blend of deep insight, historical information, and evocative descriptions of the objects and places he observed on the journey. The author's writing comes across as genuine and unique since he provides personal viewpoints and open comments about the areas he travels to. Gordon Nicholas is the type of insightful thinker I like, with his sensible words on embracing a unity that transcends national boundaries, the futility of war, and other important issues relating to the kindness inherent in all people. One Man's Europe is a treasure trove for travelers and adventure seekers, with fascinating comments about gastronomy and architecture from many areas of Europe and even as far as Cairo. You not only travel with the author, but you also escape to a different historical era.