Monday, 13 June 2011

Review: Mud, Sweat and Tears by Bear Grylls

This is a bit of a strange book to review; in the sense of I feel than Bear Grylls doesn't seem as though he wanted to give too much away.

The book opens with introductions to Bear's lineage; from his great-grandfather through his grand-parents to his parents; the social circles they moved in and the apparent influence they had on his life.

His early life and school is covered in the first 34 chapters; yes, that right 34 chapters! But this is only roughly the first 120 pages; as the chapters only average 2 or 3 pages.

The time-line moves along at a fair pace from boarding school to Eton, to University then on to his decision to join the SAS.

Up to this point in the book we only get short anecdotes and glimpses of his life.

The next 28 chapters (108 pages) are taken up by the telling of his selection for the SAS(R), the start of this section is prefaced with a note about how he sign the Official Secrets Act and how he is restricted on revealing details of the SAS.

This is only one of two parts within the book that his passion seems to come through; and you start to get a feel for the person, but again we only get small anecdotal stories, mostly centred around the training and the long route marches. Again there are plenty of bones but not a lot of meat on them.

Both Chris Ryan and Andy McNab have covered the SAS and selection in their books with much more insight.

The next 35 pages cover almost a period of two years, in which Bear breaks his back, recovers and meets his future wife and prepares to climb Everest. Quite some big events to squeeze into 35 pages!

The second part to play a big part in the book and show his passion is the climbing of Everest (115 pages). Again we get to see the commitment and passion that drives him on, and making him (at the time) the youngest Brit to summit Everest.

The remainder of the book (40 pages or so) concentrates on his marriage, his motivational talks and the start of Born Survivor.

I have to admit that I had never heard of Bear Grylls before his T.V. Series; Born Survivor, and was hoping that this part of his life would be covered but again this becomes a footnote.

Bear has been criticised about 'faking' within the shows and although mentioned he doesn't really have much to say on the subject.

And then on to the Epilogue; which goes on to mention, first team to cross the frozen North Atlantic Arctic Ocean, flying powered paragliders above Everest, and an expedition through the Northwest Passage in a rigid inflatable boat but these only get one or two line within this chapter, I would of like to hear more of these stories as this is the Bear Grylls I know from the T.V. Maybe they are being saved for Volume two.

I was looking forward to reading this book but have come away slightly disappointed. If you already know about his time in the SAS and the climbing of Everest (which was covered in his book Facing Up) then personally I think you won't find much more about the life of Bear Grylls.

On a sidenote, I was approached by Transworld Publishers about reviewing this book; the reasons for accepting this offer was 1. I get the chance to read the autobiography of Bear Grylls and 2. I was also offered a second copy to run a competition on the blog for one of my reader's to win.

Although the review copy turned up; the second copy never did, even after I had been back in touch with Transworld Publishers.


  1. He's come in for a lot of criticism and been measured against Ray Mears but really they're completely different and each appeal to different audiences. Whatever he may or may not have done in the 'Born Survior' series you can't fake climbing Everest.

    Personally I think his strength is his genuine almost childlike enthusism which is IMO is strikingly similar to Chris Bonnington. Bear Grylls is currently 'Chief Scout' of the Scouting Association and I guess as a source of inspiration for kids he's ideal.

  2. Anonymous8:01 am

    well i have just finished the book and i thought it was great but i once i finished i thought well he only really covered to things in his book, SAS and everest. I think he should of cut the length of everest and SAS down a bit and addded to more things at least into the book

  3. I agree with your review if I am comparing the biography to other books in this section which contain way more detail, especially for the structure of the book.

    But if I look at it from the perspective of a person who simply loves Bear Grylls for his shows and achievements, I loved it. I only read it because I was (still am) a fan and was curious about the origin of his strength. I also loved the pace and the details were good enough for me. Maybe his audience were simply us, fans who need encouragement.

    I do agree again, though, that he skipped a few good parts of his life which would have been interesting to read about. I was also confused at times when he switched back and forth from being a teenager to an adult. I still recommend the book.

  4. Great review. Going waterstones in a few hour. Will defo pick up now

  5. Jacek K. form Poland8:29 pm

    Hi everyone,
    I must say I'm a bit confused about the "facts" the way Bear Grylls sees them. I'm referring here to a translated book thus I can't state exact pages. At some point Bear tells us "In my opinion that wasn't coincidence that for years there've been that many SAS officers originating from Eton" (sorry about my English, hope you'll get the sense). And then, around 40 pages further, he says: "What's more, it was very hard to find graduates from Eton among SAS soldiers". And in other part of the book telling about climbing the Everest I read that a shell (with a quotation from the Bible) given him by Sharon was giving him a comfort during his time in SAS. Strange, I understood that he met Sharon only after he left SAS and went to Scotland to see his mate. Forgive me but sometimes I can't find any logic in Bear's account.