‘A book that changes life', states the cover… Partly novel, partly autobiography, partly self-help guide, partly philosophical book, Way of the peaceful warrior contains a range of details that can actually be life changing for anybody.
Dan Millman inspired himself from his own story to write young athlete Dan's story and discovery of the world: Despite his successful career as a gymnast and his easy college life, Dan has the feeling that something is not quite right in his life. One night, as he cannot go to sleep, he meets a strange old man he names Socrates. Guided by this warrior, he begins a spiritual odyssey that will change his life forever.
I did not know what to expect when I first opened the book. To be honest, I had bought it because of the author and the background: gymnastics. Knowing that Dan Millman was an athlete and being a gymnast myself, I thought this book could only be of interest to me. I was right, but not in the way I had expected. As I said before, gymnastics is merely the background, and clearly not the main theme of the novel. The scenes in which Dan performs at a contest or in the training hall, however, are full of details and accurately described. The knowledge of the author on the subject shows subtly, which I really enjoyed. The choice of gymnastics is not innocent. Dan Millman was part of the trampoline team, so he knows about it, but this is probably not the only reason for his choice. Gymnastics is a sport in which you have to be able to imaging yourself doing your routine, and so your state of mind is extremely important, which is ideal for that kind of book. In each scene where characters perform gymnastics exercises, their thoughts are always accurately described and we can then understand the link between sport and everyday life.
The lessons Socrates teaches Dan are put in a simple and understandable way. Most readers willing to use them in their daily life will probably be able to do so without difficulty. Given the simplicity of the words and the lessons themselves, anybody can be interested in this unusual story. More experienced readers will not be disappointed either, as there is an abundance of philosophical references and details that are not needed for comprehension but definitely add to the depth of the thinking. You will discover something new every time you reread a passage. Dan's thoughts and actions are always fully described, whereas Socrates' remain mysterious. Who is he really? Another character that will play an important role in the story is Joy, a beautiful and enigmatic woman who will help Dan on his journey. I will not say more about her in order not to spoil the story.
Overall, I liked the book, although some passages were a little too philosophical for me, especially at the beginning. The writing style, however, was rather easy to read and agreeable. I am glad that the story covers Dan's life on such a long period, even if I found the end (book three) a little disappointing because it was quick and lacked details, especially about his journey round the world… which means I will have to read the next book soon to find out what happens there.
The relationships between the characters are interesting as well. Of course, Socrates and Dan are the most important ones, but as Dan's learning skills improve and as he takes in the lessons Socrates teaches him, we can see how his relationships to other people evolve as well. I found the end satisfying because it is open for interpretation. Did the whole story really take place? Or only some of it? And how can various mysterious events be explained? I let you read the book and decide for yourself!
Way of the peaceful warrior is a great book that is worth reading if you are interested in philosophy. People who want action and mere description of an athlete's life may not find what they are looking for in this novel. However, even if you are not used to that kind of reading – as was the case for me – have a try, you might be quite surprised.
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