Blog Tour Book Review

A Hundred Million Years and a Day by Jean-Baptiste Andrea

Stan has been hunting for fossils since the age of six. Now, in the summer of 1954, he hears a story he cannot forget: the skeleton of a huge creature – a veritable dragon – lies deep in an Alpine glacier. And he is determined to find it.

But Stan is no mountaineer. To complete his dangerous expedition, he must call on loyal friend Umberto, who arrives with an eccentric young assistant, and expert guide Gio. Time is short: the four men must descend before the weather turns. As bonds are forged and tested, the hazardous quest for the earth’s lost creatures becomes a journey into Stan’s own past.

A Hundred Million Years and a Day is a mesmerising story of nature, adventure and of one man’s determination to follow his dream, whatever it may take.

I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for A Hundred Million Years and Day by Jean-Baptiste Andrea today, and as well as a review of the novel which you can see below, I have something a little more personal to share. 

Those of taking part in the blog tour were asked to consider:

What would you give a hundred million and a day for?

I think that this is a difficult question to answer – there are a lot of things I’d like to achieve, but the point I keep coming back to is the direction my career has taken.  I’ll be honest, having written this post, it’s nowhere near as overwhelming as Stan’s dream, and yet it’s something that is a huge part of my life.

At school, I was always good at maths.  I wasn’t too shabby at other subjects, but maths was clearly my strong point.  When leaving sixth form to go to university at 18, my teacher advised me not to continue to study maths, but to choose a discipline that used those skills but perhaps with more of a vocational element or a second subject to go alongside it.  Having absolutely no idea what I wanted to study or do with the rest of my life, I unfortunately took the straightforward – I won’t call it easy – option and studied maths.  My teacher was right, if you’re wondering, but by the time I realised this, it was too late to do anything about it.

Even nearing the end of my time at university, I still had no idea what I wanted to do afterwards.  I felt no calling to teach others, and I didn’t want to work in financial services where many maths graduates end up. But, after finishing university, I needed a job and found a role working in – you guessed it – financial services, taking a role in credit risk working for a bank. I’ve changed companies since then, but I’m still working in a similar role 15 years later.  It’s not been all bad, but I can’t honestly say that I’ve enjoyed much of my work in recent years, and right now I’m feeling utterly fed up with my job and the industry I work in. 

So what?! I hear you cry, do something else!

Which is a perfectly reasonable response.  The problem is that I have absolutely no idea what to do instead.  I want to do something different, but I’ve no idea what different looks like. Working in publishing obviously holds appeal, but without moving to London (or at least closer to it) it doesn’t seem feasible – there are opportunities outside of the capital, but they’re few and far between.  Should I try to utilise my existing skills or start down a completely different path? Should I undertake further study?  There seem to be a lot of questions and too few answers.  And it’s scary – I know that I can do my job, even if I don’t enjoy it that much, but to start afresh in another industry is, quite frankly, terrifying.   

And there you have it.  My current dream is to do something different career-wise.  And it shouldn’t be insurmountable or even that difficult, my indecisiveness aside.  Change is hard, but the things worth pursuing are worth the risk, aren’t they?  And maybe having shared this with you all is the kick up the arse I need to go and do something about it.  It’d be embarrassing to confess all of this and then carry on regardless, wouldn’t it? 😳

It’s 1954, and Stan has been doggedly pursuing a rumour he heard years earlier – a huge skeleton seen in a cave in the Alps.  He has little information to go on, but his persistence pays off, and he has now narrowed down the location enough to make a journey worthwhile.  Putting together a small team, he sets off, staking everything on the hope of making an important discovery.  I admired Stan hugely.  It’s not easy to give up a relatively comfortable life – a home, a job etc. – in order to pursue a dream, and yet he does exactly that.  He believes in this quest so much that he’s willing to risk everything on it, including his own life. It’s a difficult journey into the mountains, and Stan has no mountaineering experience whatsoever.

A familiar pain roared through my veins, an old pain that I knew well.  It was life stirring within me

While this is a short novel at some 170 pages, it’s not a fast read – I savoured every page of wonderful prose as Stan’s journey progressed.  Throughout, I felt curious and hopefully that Stan would succeed his goal, and yet I also felt that the author’s message wasn’t that finding the skeleton was important, but that making the attempt do so was the key factor.  I think that many people can relate to Stan’s story, not in the specifics, but in the idea of a seemingly unattainable dream, and pursuing a goal no matter how long and hard the journey might be. 

Whilst in the Alps, Stan reminisces about his past, and the reader comes to understands his background and the events that made him the man that he is.  A lot of this relates to his father with whom he had a difficult relationship.  His father hated Stan’s bookish inclinations, wanting a “real man” for a son.  The fact that Stan was able to leave and become a palaeontologist at all is somewhat astounding as you learn more about his childhood and the pressure exerted by his father to take over the family farm.  It seemed to me that, no matter what had passed between them, Stan still sought his father’s approval.  It’s not said, but I felt that this mission was perhaps a last-ditch attempt to prove himself worthy of his father’s pride. 

A Hundred Million Years and a Day is a short, bittersweet novel that will appeal to fans of literary fiction and anyone with an interest in palaeontology, mountaineering, or survival.

A Hundred Million Years and a Day is available now from Gallic Books.  Many thanks to the publisher and Isabelle Flynn for the review copy and the opportunity to take part in the blog tour. 

Make sure you check out the other wonderful bloggers and bookstagrammers who have taken part in the tour:

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