Wednesday 9 February 2011

Book Review: Well, for a start it has the best title EVER

One of the highlights of my January was the arrival of a thick package in the post; opened, it contained my very own copy of I Married Adventure by Osa Johnson.

Many things are pleasing about this book: as well as the fabulous title, there's the fabulous zebra print cover.  Lady Traveller's Little Sister pointed out that (what with the somewhat distressed condition of the cover) it looked like some poor old zebra had been skinned expressly for the purpose (fear not, it's actually cloth).  (Interestingly, according to this blog, the book is highly in demand by stylists who prize the aesthetic appeal of the zebra stripes.)

(Zebra stripes were a bit of a theme with Osa.)

But even better than the cover are the contents.  Osa was just 16 when she met Martin Johnson; she had never been outside Kansas.  He, though also from Kansas, had recently returned from a trip with the adventure writer Jack London (he won his place on London's ship The Snark by winning a letter-writing competition.  Kids - pay attention!)  Martin had been a keen photographer from an early age and later pioneered documentary film-making.

The Johnsons spent their honeymoon in the Solomon Islands.  For exercise they lugged super-heavy camera equipment uphill and ran downhill, pursued by angry natives.  Martin's ambition was to film  a cannibal feast; eventually they did but only narrowly escaped being served up as dessert.

You'd think that would put any new bride off adventure for good, but not our Osa (little Osa, as she's often described.)  After the Solomons, they spent chunks of time in Borneo and East Africa and became famous filmmakers.

What I love about Osa is that she determines to be an active participant, rather than just tagging along behind Martin. Yes, she does worship her husband with a fervour that gets kind of old (or maybe he really was that wonderful?) but she's not just a passive tagger-alonger.  She works - hard - to put her own stamp on their adventures.  And yes, a lot of that involves creating comfortable homes for them en route - but this is no small feat of organisation, since their homes ranged from grass huts to little boats to mud cabins.   She was also handy with a gun, made friends wherever they went and learned to fly (they had two planes, Osa's Ark and Spirit of Africa, both - wait for it - in animal print, one with zebra stripes, the other with giraffe spots.)

I previously quoted her Christmas menu from Lake Paradise (their home in a remote part of Kenya) but now I'd like to give you Osa's thoughts relative to Lady Travellers:
A woman that's too soft and sweet is like tapioca pudding - fine for them as likes it.
And finally, here's a great movie clip from the 1930s that gives the Story So Far of the Johnsons:

I'd marry Adventure in a heartbeat if it gave me a zebra-striped plane.


  1. Ryanair would probably do it if th price was right. 'morning australia

  2. If the price is me becoming Mrs Ryanair then I think that's too high a price to pay.
    'Morning mamó!

  3. Asalamu Alaykom from Egypt,

    I had to find out the name of the zebra-riding explorer on Pinterest! Glad that I did. Thanks!