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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on 27 September 2012
Walking Home by Simon Armitage

Simon Armitage doesn't half make it hard for himself. The Pennine Way is bad enough South to North but the other way round, and having to sing (read poetry) for your supper is just plain daft, but in a good way... And this is a joyous book for, all the privations of walking day in and day out. He has a wonderful turn of phrase, knowing but open hearted, soaking up all the experiences and a great line in self-deprecation. There are some very funny moments (the Doughnut-man outside the poetry reading venue is terrific; only in Yorkshire, perhaps?) and a fabulous attention to detail. He knows about birdlife and about physical geography (and he's probably a dab hand at Weber's Concentric Rings Theory should any human geography scenarios kick-in) and he has enough other folk along for the walk to cover all the other bases.

So what we have is a very good writer, who knows a thing or two, with a bunch of others who know a thing or two too and the ever changing weather and the hills and a fair smattering of characters who pop up at readings or stick things in Simon's `collecting money for the poet sock' (read the book, all will be explained). It really is a marvellous picture of England, northern England particularly, but low-fi, walking-pace, turned-out-nice-again England. And it was a damned good idea; just right for this particular poet (there are plenty of poets I can think of who'd not get this right, they'd go and fall off Hadrian's Wall or catch trench-foot or take a helicopter...). And the fact that... no, I won't say how it ends but it isn't what you expect but is absolutely right. And if you get the chance to hear/see Simon talking about this book (perhaps in a major Midlands' city in October 2012) you get a free slide shown thrown in for nothing; can't say fairer than that.
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46 of 49 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 29 June 2012
Simon Armitage is a modern day poet and author. He decides to walk the 256 mile Pennine Way in the summer of 2010 from north to south, so that he feels like he is walking 'home' towards Yorkshire, rather than away from it.
The main feature of his challenge is to finance the trip with pre-arranged poetry readings at various places along the away.
The book describes his highs and lows of the walk and the varied personalities he meets on the route and at the poetry reading in the evenings.
'Walking Home' is not specifically aimed at people who enjoy walking, but it is the initial reason why I first became interested in this book. I actually think that it will appeal to walkers and non walkers alike. I'm not a fan of poetry at all and Simon's account of his trip does not get bogged down with poems. There are just three or four poems in there.
The author's accounts of the people he meets, the scenery and his personal struggles with the physical and mental stress of the walk are enjoyable and interesting to read.
Although Simon's journey is more about the experience of walking the Pennine Way, the breakdown of the route may be useful to walkers thinking of undertaking the long distance walk. Those that have already done it may like to read about what they have already achieved and know what the author is talking about.
Overall, this is an engaging read, written in a style that will appeal to a wide audience.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on 16 July 2012
Interesting well written book; not at all like the usual nerdish walking guides. But my gut feeling is that it wasn't written as a result of the walk but rather the walk was undertaken in order to write the book. There's an awful lot of these book driven enterprises about these days. Some years ago Victoria Coren wrote a book about making a porn film but again I suspect the book deal came before the porn film.

As a former long distance walker myself I am baffled by Simon Armitage's mindset and psyche. I suppose it must come from his profession and the ability to write to order about virtually anything and make a drama about it; even when no drama really exists. Despite being equipped with mobile phone, satelite navigation, maps, guide books and numerous volunteer guides he plumbed the depths of despair when lost in the mud and mists along the way. And as for the ending; words fail me.

While his book isn't nerdish I was amused by his careful counting and recording of his takings down to the last penny every night. Apart from anything else, the books absurd notion of earning his living as a 'modern troubadour' is ridiculous. His careful income/expenditure audit took absolutely no account of the time spent by a great many people organizing his walk and poetry readings and helping along the way.

All that being said, I greatly admire his technical skills as a writer; mores the pity they couldn't be put to better use.

One final thought. What on earth was he carrying in that heavy pink suitcase? Surely not sales samples!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 10 August 2012
An easy and engaging read, and Simon Armitage's descrptions of people and places are masterful. If, like me, you have never walked the length of the Pennine Way, but have touched it in different spots over years of walking, you'll recognise the countryside, the villages and towns and the utter bleakness of high grounds. Mud and rain occupy many of the pages making it almost real. It hasn't encouraged me to walk the whole distance, so perhaps if you're thinking of the enterprise yourself, you might read this first. It shows too that earning a living as a wandering poet is unlikely to be successful in the long run.

Of course, we wonder about the walker's personal effort on the one hand and the energy and time of the many other people involved on the other, and the whole orchestration of the walk and the poetry readings, which SA gratefully and fulsomely acknowledges at the end, but read it for the pleasure of moving through the countryside with him, for the power of the writing and the enormous baggage of adjectives Armitage took with him.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This is a book which it it difficult to classify. At a very basic level, poet Simon Armitage decides to walk the Pennine Way from north to south, and to finance his trip from donations made at poetry recitals he gives on the way. The book is an account of his journey. So, is it a travelogue? Well, not really. If you wish to learn about what it is like to walk the Pennine Way, Walking Home gives a peculiarly foreshortened version. It reads like a selection of vignettes from short day walks. The snippets he gives from each day, make the walks seem much shorter than the 16 odd miles he is actually covering. That said, however, he brilliantly summarises the overall feel of walking a long distance path."My habitat has become the journey itself and my new habitat is to walk. That is what I do now. I lace up my boots and head into the hills, then do the same the next day, and the next day, and the day after that."

In the introduction, Armitage says that he wanted to write a book about the north, one that could observe the land and its people and one that could encompass elements of memoir, as well as saying something about (his) life as a poet. Well, yes, he does that, but again, only in the same way as this is a travelogue. This is not a detailed portrait of the north and its people, it is more a series of pen portraits of individual people he meets on his journey. One absolutely fabulously touching such picture is that of a father and son walking the Pennine Way together. As a memoir too, it is sparse and intermittent. Even of the life of a poet, one learns very little, other than a small feeling of what it is like to read out poems after walking all day.

And yet, I did enjoy the book, and the reason I did, the main pleasure for me, was the beauty in his prose. The description of the father and son is beautifully sensitive. There are frequent descriptions which catch the breath, for example, an allusion to the "afterburners" of a redstart's tail. His observations of the people he meets are delightful. I loved his writing about a guest room as being a reliquary, containing objects whose significance to family life borders on the sacred. It might be said that his writing style clearly shows his profession, but strangely, on the evidence of the examples included in this book, I found his poetry less approachable than his prose.

Finally, I have to say that I found the end dissatisfying. Without giving anything away, one could sympathise with him, recognise his true goal in the book's title or applaud him, but it also felt a bit like not being trendy enough for a liberal arts academic to finish in the expected way, just as it wouldn't be cool to use expensively acquired navigational aids properly.

So, whatever expectations you have of this book, travelogue, memoir, social portrait, picture of the life of a poet, it fulfils them, but only in a fragmentary, passport photo sort of way.

Walking Home is worth your time to read, but the main pleasure is in the writing itself rather than the subject.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on 27 June 2012
This book is a real crowdpleaser, and will be lapped up by those of us who like SA himself as much as (or perhaps rather than) his poetry. There's very little of the latter, so the book works very well as a personal take on schlepping the wrong way down the Pennine Way. The writing is fluent yet arresting.

There's something very reassuring about SA's world of strong family ties, living local, indie rock and confectionery. In its own way it's no different from that of the Sunday evening TV dramas he jokes about as he goes through the Dales, but there is an honesty and a rootedness in the contemporary here which stops things becoming twee.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 15 January 2013
A book describing a walk could be very dull indeed, but SA strikes a good balance between describing the landscape and terrain, his own musings and the people he encounters. I don't know how someone from another part of the country would find this but having walked a lot in my native Cumbria and North Yorkshire I found it transmitted the feel of those places really well; perhaps less so North Yorks because that part has more of the thoughts/people than landscape, though I love his description of how the rock emits an atmosphere and type of light.

SA's use of language is, as you'd expect from a poet, inventive and beautifully descriptive and there are a few poems dotted through. For those with little patience with poetry they are short clear and enjoyable. A few more would have been nice but those are probably all he managed, being totally knackered every evening!! How he managed poetry readings is beyond me. There are some interesting photos too.

I gave this five stars because it's an original and interesting book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 18 September 2012
I ordered this as a kindle book to read on holiday.I live in the foothills of the Pennines and thought I would be interested in Simons journey.Not so.I found it boring and repetitive in regard to the poetry readings he did .
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 11 January 2013
I hoped for a great deal more insight into the places and people Simon Armitage saw and met (including his much-maligned friend Slug, who seemed to have a great deal of comic potential)and perhaps into his creative thinking as he yomped across the Dales. Didn't really happen. Nor any very dramatic events (got a bit lost twice and lost his walking poles). It turned into a series of repetitive lists with an anticlimactic ending.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Simon Armitage's earthy humour and closeness to his Yorkshire roots are again to the fore, in this account of his recent trek across the Pennine Way - ostensibly an uneventful if gruelling journey, but one that, filtered through the poet's unique style, becomes a Homer-esque odyssey, where the elements are personified as demons attempting to thwart his quest, and where kind everyday folk provide the support (and frequent guilt-trips) that sustain the intrepid traveller and give him much food for thought.
Continuing a rich tradition in recent years of quirky travel writing, Armitage's latest book is utterly absorbing and eminently readable; if occasionally cloying when the writer attempts to pay homage to his wife and daughter, but he can surely be forgiven this minor indulgence, as the overall reading experience is a wholly rewarding one.
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