28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot (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!)