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The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot Paperback – 30 May 2013


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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (30 May 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141030585
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141030586
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.8 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (156 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,441 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Robert Macfarlane's Mountains of the Mind: A History of a Fascination (2003), won the Guardian First Book Award, the Somerset Maugham Award, and the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award. Robert Macfarlane is a Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge. He lives in Cambridge with his family.


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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

142 of 151 people found the following review helpful By The Fisher Price King on 29 April 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book completes Robert Macfarlane's trilogy of exploratory works of nature writing. If you are familiar with his previous work, it's worth my saying that in tone and content this is somewhere between The Wild Places and Mountains of the Mind. It is a personal exploration, but also contains a great deal of history and research.

In The Old Ways Macfarlane examines the routes that mark - and in many cases lie submerged within or beneath - the British landscape. And not just the British landscape, but Spain and Palestine too. He draws out the connections between pathways and stories, reflecting on the different kinds of thinking and writing there have been inspired by travelling on foot.

Macfarlane is a lyrical, eloquent writer, whose portfolio of interests encompasses art, geology, map-making, poetry, environmentalism and adventure. As he goes about this he is guided by the spirits of many who have gone before him; perhaps the most significant of these is the poet Edward Thomas, with the artist Eric Ravilious another.

This is both a book about journeys and a journey in its own right - into the past, but also into the self. It is scholarly, informative, moving and thought-provoking. Highly recommended to existing fans, and it will probably create a new fanbase, especially among those who admire really finely crafted writing.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Mara Greenwood VINE VOICE on 29 April 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book has taken me a good long while to read my way through, mainly because it is so beautifully written but can be quite hard going at times as well! Part travelogue, part history book, part anecdotes, all fascinating, this is a really great book to add to the shelf of anyone with a love for travel and local history, especially where the travelling is done on foot!

Beginning and ending in the UK, the book covers the author's travels through places as diverse as the Icknield Way, the Broomway and Scottish and Hebridean sea travels, all the way over to Israel, Spain and the mountains of Sichuan to name but a few, and is full of musings on the nature of man and mankind and where we intersect with the land, and what walking on the land means to us. A wonderful, moving and lyrical book that really changes your perspective on the world and where you fit into it, and makes you itch to put on your walking boots and reconnect with the land around you.

Highly recommended, but not easy reading - I read a chapter, then mulled it over for a few days, then read another chapter and so on and so forth. Keep a dictionary to hand when you read, and a notebook, because you will almost certainly find references to other authors, historians and poets that you will want to go away and read after this book!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Ray Dart on 14 Sep 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a bestseller and has great reviews. It was OK, just. Lots of unnecessary flowery language, which I suspect is there for padding. If you were to take away the verbiage and some other unnecessary descriptive matter, this would be a rather short book. I'm a member of the Icknield Way Society, and even that was not covered that well. Buy, read, take to charity shop.
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40 of 43 people found the following review helpful By R. Newton on 15 Jun 2012
Format: Hardcover
To begin with I found this a disapointing read. I expected to be impressed and enthralled - I love mountains, I love walking, and I like erudite writing, but I found this a little difficult to get into. The writing flows, but the contents don't always work. I think this is because Macfarlane quotes from too many different sources, and it seems as if he is wanting to show you all the clever stuff he has read without saying anything himself. If you find this I say persevere, because it settles down and one or two pieces are excellent and moving (especially the penultimate chapter). This is not quite the materpiece it could have been, and whilst a good writer with some excellent passages which just float over you, MacFarlane is occasionally heavy handed. Sometimes he takes you with him, but on other occasions you are a more distant observer. Also, whilst there is a general topic of walking it does not quite hang together as a coherent whole. It is shame in a way, because had more of it been like the end of the book and less like the start and this could have been a masterpiece. However, it is still worth four stars and my criticism is less that it is not good, but not as good as it could have been. I would still recommend it as a pleasing, intellectual and yet generally easy read.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By J. S. Atherton on 3 Aug 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
I picked this up (admittedly as the third item in a 3 for 2 deal at a physical bookshop--somehow this review will appear for the kindle edition, though) on the strength of the four pages of eulogistic review extracts at the front, many from writers I respect and have enjoyed.

And I can understand the appeal. One quoted review (from Metro--what difference does that make?) includes, "Read this and it will be impossible to take an unremarkable walk again". I am a sucker for books which aspire to change one's perspective on something. Macfarlane does so aspire, and he is erudite and generally engaging and refreshing. To begin with.

I found the book easy and relaxing to read, notwithstanding the occasionally esoteric vocabulary (there is an interesting glossary, though). But about half-way through, I realised why. It made no demands whatever. There is no argument to follow, there is no narrative to remember, apart perhaps from a few characters who pop up for a chapter early on and then get referred to by name only with no clue as to their role. It is a series of essays--no harm in that--and great to read for an hour, but easy to put down.

Edward Thomas pops up and recedes. (I was interested to learn about his relationship with Robert Frost, and possibly being the seed of "The Road less Traveled", and the impact of that on him in turn pp. 343-4) Interesting, but his role as a kind of "spirit guide" doesn't come off--Macfarlane is too opportunistic in his use of Thomas. He uses him to bolster points, but not to test them.

It washes over one, a warm bath of smug celebration of superior sensitivity.

(I overstate of course. It's just that all these sweet reviews need a little balancing sour!)
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