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West: A Journey Through the Landscapes of Loss [Hardcover]

Jim Perrin
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 July 2010
'I am alone with my dead, and the grieving can begin. I am alone with my dead in a place of the dead, and I do not want to live. This is why I have come here - to be alone; to be in a place of the dead; to be at peace and undisturbed with my own dead.' After the sudden, separate, deaths of his wife and son, Jim Perrin fled his native Wales for Ireland and to the furthest point of Connemara, to an ancient burial ground on an island off its westernmost peninsula. A journey embarked upon haphazardly, instinctively, led him solitary and at twilight to a remote beach strewn with human bones. Consumed by the presence of death, he had come to a place of the dead, had felt the urge to travel West and wondered why? What was leading him to settle into this place and pass here the coming hours of dark, under the hollow gaze of ancient skulls? West is his extraordinary attempt to understand. West tells the story of Jim Perrin's own life against the lives and deaths of his cherished wife and son, and the landscapes through which they travelled together. It is a powerful and passionate confrontation with loss, a seeking-to-understand the wilderness within, a meditation on transience, a complex, sensual and moving love-story and a celebration of the beauty and redemptive power of wild nature. In this book, Perrin has written a stunning, life-affirming evocation of the grief that can consume us all and the journey entailed in accepting and understanding devastating personal loss.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books; 2010 First Edition edition (1 July 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1843546116
  • ISBN-13: 978-1843546115
  • Product Dimensions: 14.7 x 22.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 594,127 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


'A beautiful, powerful and extraordinary book, full of extremes of nature and experience. WEST is an invigorating and frequently joyous reflection of what it feels like to be alive.' -- Tristan Gooley, author of THE NATURAL NAVIGATOR

'In this astonishing book, as much factual novel or epic prose poem as anything else, Jim Perrin takes us on a celebratory, often hilarious, yet profoundly moving, journey through an intricate weave of lives lived, loved and lost. In recalling his wife and son, he conjugates love, pride and pain into an eloquent reflection on grief and mortality.'
--Aonghas MacNeacail

About the Author

Jim Perrin is one of Britain's most highly regarded writers on travel, nature and the outdoors and in his youth was one of the country's most notable rock-climbers. He is a regular contributor to the Daily Telegraph, Guardian, Climber and The Great Outdoors. Among many other awards he has twice won the Boardman Tasker Prize for mountain literature, and was voted Scottish Columnist of the Year 2009. He has written twelve books to date, including Menlove, The Villain: A LIfe of Don Whillans, River Map, The Climbing Essays and Travels with The Flea. He is a Fellow of the Welsh Academy, an Honorary Fellow of Bangor University, and the Guardian's Country Diarist for Wales.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars truth or fantasy? 19 Mar 2014
By Madryn
My suspicions of West were aroused when I came to the episode describing how Jim Perrin was, supposedly, diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. ( A dozen years later he's still alive and well.) He claims that the doctors diagnosed metastases in both lungs. Jim, lad, you don't get metastases in your lungs from lung cancer: you get primaries. Lung cancer is almost always fatal, and there is no doctor who would have behaved as Perrin alleges his "wise old GP " did, and advised delay to see how things developed. So why did Perrin make all this up? Because Jac had died of cancer did he have to be equally ill? This episode, plus Jacs sisters very different versions of his affair with her, casts considerable doubt on the truth, factual and emotional, of the rest of West. All writing is a construct and it would be naive to expect absolute truth from a memoir, but the creation of episodes which simply cannot have happened does raise ethical questions about the degree of fantasy acceptable in a supposedly honest account. West strikes me as less an expression of the sublime than the egotistical.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Grief and eloquence 11 May 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Writers will write, and to write is to invite criticism, notwithstanding the genuine and heartfelt grief of which this astounding book is both sublimation and expression. Grief for a lost son whose life and personality are most vividly and movingly described, and whom one would like to have known; and by extension, I suspect, grief for the stable and loving personal and family life which has consistently eluded the author, or perhaps vice-versa.

With age (I am not far short of Jim Perrin's) comes an increasing preparedness to trust one's instincts when reading a book such as "West"; its real eloquence lies in its portrayal of the author himself, which alone merits five stars (which I originally gave it, but the irony may have been lost).

Safely dead, his most recent partner Jac is cast as his one great love, as if to round out and lend shape to his personal life; a claim predicated on an apparently invented physical relationship of some three decades before, whose initiating kiss is described -- truly a master-stroke this -- in words attributed to Jac herself as Jim claims not to recall it or its circumstances. Unfortunately for the veracity of this account, he relates the circumstances at first hand in his 2007 book "The Climbing Essays", without the kiss and with only the most careful hint of an ensuing relationship, Jac being 'spoken for' at that time. Time has emboldened him.

There is little gallantry shown by Perrin towards Jac in his frequent and graphical descriptions of their lovemaking, supposedly then and more recently, and of her attitude towards it, all of which smacks of male fantasy. Indeed no incidental encounter with any imaginably eligible woman, even an estate agent for pity's sake, is described without a sexual charge to it.
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16 of 22 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Inflated Prose with Little Substance 21 Nov 2010
This 'book' purports to be the truth about a relationship but the elasticity and mis-use of facts grounds it mostly in fantasy.
Elaborate obfuscations of time and fact disorientate the reader. For a fuller sense of a memoir of a loved one read Francisco Goldman`s 'Say her Name,' where he truely honours his ture and legal wife by bringing her to life, detailing her as a person, showing us who she is in her own right.
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14 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning and extraordinary 5 Dec 2010
By Marc
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Imagine how it would feel to lose your first born son. Worse, imagine him committing suicide; your golden boy kneeling into a noose, choosing death over any comfort you might offer. And as the tide of grief engulfed you, imagine learning that your partner and lifelong love has terminal cancer. Imagine she dies within a year.

The truth is I can't imagine how that would feel.

Sure, I can string some words together, probably clichéd - curl up and die, cry my heart out - but the reality is I have little conception of the visceral hurt, the psychological trauma such losses would bring. The losses I have experienced seem trivial by comparison- or at least more natural and in their proper place. I have no idea what I would do; how I'd respond; where I would go.

Jim Perrin faced these horrors, and more. And he went West - drawn to the Atlantic shores of Ireland, his instinct to reach out for the recuperative power of landscape. He went West, he writes in his new book, because the West is the landscape of loss; because the West is where the light dies. But going West was as much a mental as physical journey; in the landscape of the West he found not only solace, but also the strength to take the first faltering step out of grief's labyrinth.

West is an extraordinary book: beautifully written, heartfelt, nauseating; it is poetic and scholarly, bawdy and funny; it is the story of unimaginable grief, a story we would never wish on ourselves. And yet it is also a love story; as much about life as it is about loss - if not exactly embracing his sorrow, he at least shows us the possibility of facing it, and even finding joy in our memories.

PS I note the negative reviews of this book by Jaccetta's family - I can't comment on their accuracy, but it seems to me that they are missing the point - this a book is about grief and loss and coming through - the personal histories are not really the issue.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars West
Recently I re-read West , it improves with time .... as does the author . Shipton and Tilman not to be missed !
Published 12 months ago by Isobel MacLeod
4.0 out of 5 stars An honest but difficult read
I have admired Jim Perrin's writing for a long time and parts of the this memoir are exceptional. The detail he provides to describe the relationships central to the book feel too... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Graham Kennedy
1.0 out of 5 stars 'West' is not best
Sadly, this is the most uneventful book I have EVER had the misfortune to read. It feels like reading someones stream of conciousness written as a descriptive diary. Read more
Published on 6 April 2012 by philippa418
1.0 out of 5 stars Poor and disappointing
Unlike his earlier writing,I found the attempts to describe landscape in this book tedious. The times he mentioned the moon waxing or a little owl coming into view, you could... Read more
Published on 29 Nov 2011 by Richard
5.0 out of 5 stars Updikian clarity and honesty !
This writer reminds me of John Updike in his ability to describe with just the right words, places,weather and people. Read more
Published on 28 Sep 2010 by S.Greenhalgh
5.0 out of 5 stars a unique celebration of love via loss
this book is unlike other books - it transcends the traits that reviewers may look for on which to heap scorn or praise. Read more
Published on 7 Sep 2010 by robmacneacail
5.0 out of 5 stars Love, Life and Living
There are some things that pick you up and give you a zest for life. Although it's perhaps a bit hackneyed, Steve Windwood's song 'When You See a Chance' has this effect on me. Read more
Published on 16 Aug 2010 by Mr. Richard C. Barrett
5.0 out of 5 stars Cathartic in the true sense of the word
A beautiful book, inspired by death but brimming with the life force. It's helping me come to terms with some very difficult recent events but what is more it is an astonishing... Read more
Published on 23 July 2010 by Mr. Neil Horner
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