The Moor: Lives Landscape Literature Hardcover – 15 May 2014
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A remarkable book. (John Carey Sunday Times)
An ambitious mix of history, topography, literary criticism and nature writing, in the tradition of WG Sebald, Robert MacFarlane and Olivia Laing . . . One of the strengths of Atkins's book is its resistance to the obvious. (Blake Morrison Guardian Book of the Week)
'This is a wonderful, teeming book, and those stoutly poetic souls who favour moorland over lush valleys, rolling dales and even snow-capped fells will cherish it, and consider it quite the classic.' (Rachel Cooke Observer)
'A rich and nuanced read ... an exquisite piece of topographical writing; beautifully observed and evoking a powerful, poignant sense of place.' (BBC Countryfile Magazine)
Not since Tim Binding's haunting On Ilkley Moor (2001) has a writer evoked the uncanny spirit of the moors so powerfully. Vivid with incident and exquisite description. (Philip Hoare New Statesman)
(Atkins') reflections on the ecology, legends and literature are as poetic as shrewd; they fill the empty places with subtle colour, high romance and natural history. (Iain Finlayson The Times)
The Moor is deeply enjoyable, a book worth reading and re-reading, sun or shower, indoors or out. (Spectator)
In William Atkins the moors have found their voice. Beautifully and darkly, with great learning and exquisite observation, the odd wet backbone of England from Cornwall to the Borders is made new. Never have these apparently empty places been revealed as so operative on our national psyche. His is a marvellously saturated book. (Tim Dee)
The non-fiction book of the year: an astonishing, beautiful and remarkable work of muddy brilliance. (Stuart Evers)
This is a book that is like the most perfect kind of walk. William Atkins takes us on a tour through the moorland scenery of Britain, and reveals it to be both stranger and more familiar than I had ever imagined it to be. He is a guide as familiar with nineteenth-century eccentrics as he is with the breeding habits of grouse, and as comfortable with poachers as with poets. Beautiful and memorable. (Tom Holland)
A visceral and joyous account ... perhaps Atkins' real strength beyond his impeccable writing, is his personalisation of the moors. He digs deep into the peat to unearth lesser known stories of lives lead in, on or around the moorlands ... [The moors] are harsh and wet and unforgiving and for that reason occupy a special corner of the human imagination. Atkins serves them well and might just have written a comprehensively researched and poetically-rendered future classic. (Ben Myers Caught by the River)
Exquisite, visceral, and perpetually surprising ... An extraordinary new portrait of these mythic blasted heaths. (Philip Hoare)
The Moor: Lives Landscape Literature by William Atkins gives us the story of the moors - from Bodmin Moor, Dartmoor and Exmoor in the southwest up to the Scottish border, via Yorkshire and Northumberland - and how they have shaped our people, culture and industry.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Atkins' fascination with a small stretch of moor close to his childhood home in Bishop's Waltham opens the book, which then takes a south-to-north tour round these moody, unstable and uniquely British landscapes. In each section, the narrative cuts frequently between the lives of individuals, both past and present, who have struggled to make a living (and/or stay sane) in these boggy, mostly barren spaces, the literary writers – both well and lesser known – whose imaginations have responded to their emptiness (RD Blackmore, Henry Williamson, Ted Hughes, WH Auden, the Bronte Sisters, amongst others) and Atkins' own commentary, as he tramps - 'landlopes' - across the endless heaths and bogs, these 'blacklands', scoffing junk food and trying to inveigle himself with the locals. The book is eloquently written, well researched and highly informative. There are illuminating encounters with gamekeepers and landowners, farmers, birders, poets. Its only problem is that the descriptions of landscape inevitably become repetitious; moorland to look at has a very British mundanity to it (even if the weather there is capricious, even duplicitous): you certainly won't read another book in which the words 'peat' and 'sphagnum' are repeated quite as regularly; the manuscript could easily have been cut by 25 pages. But as a paean to the ambiguous attractions of the imperious spaces that sit damply and darkly in the British psyche, ‘The Moor’ is well worth exploring.
Any lover of moorland will be very happy to have this on their bookshelves even if it is rather idiosyncratic in its approach. Covering industrial use, flora and fauna, social history, the environment, literature to name but a few of the subjects mainly for nine moorlands in England is bound to be a challenge but I would recommend it to those with an interest in the wonderful environment we know as "moorland". Probably more 7/10 for me.
Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.
The book is compelling and extremely well written. For me, the everyday history of small towns and communities is just as absorbing and rich as the grandiose history we all learn about in everyday culture; indeed, these small pockets of history are brought to life superbly and coloured in with the context and landscape of their physical surroundings.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it to anyone. My only criticism is that we go on this journey with Atkins, but finish the book still knowing little about the man who has guided us over the moors and across the annals of their past. It would have been nice to understand more about Atkins and how this journey shaped him. But other than that, this is truly an essential read.
In his journey around the moors of England, their landscapes and characters, Atkins’ writing is vibrant and affectionate – having tramped many of those moors myself, I consumed his book with enthusiasm. It is easy to think of the moor as one of the last surviving wild places, and, in some ways, in some corners, it is, but one of the things that this book brought home to me was that England’s moors are not wilderness, but profoundly man-made landscapes and ecosystems. Deforestation, the doomed attempts at drainage and agriculture, the human desire to “conquer” a landscape seen as threatening, and the “management” of the moors as hunting grounds have created strange environments of conflict between man and what we like to think of as nature.
Atkins describes this conflict in personal journeys and encounters with inhabitants of the moors, current and historical. I was struck, for example, by the tragic story of William Hannam, whose struggle to provide for his family by farming on Exmoor began in 1845 and ended in 1858, “the year the moor finally shrugged him off for good.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
An interesting and detailed book that engages with different aspects of moorland, but especially the lives of those who have tried to live on it. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Parker
Very interesting, well pulled together and some new facts of areas I thought I knew wellPublished 8 months ago by Anthony Summerson
Very interesting book concerning the few wild places left in the UK.Published 9 months ago by DAVID MACKLIN
CAPTURES THE FEEL OF THOSE WINDSWEPT AREAS, WITH ITS TALES OF ITS DWELLERS FACT AND FICTION, A GREAT RELAXING READ THAT YOU CAN DIP INTO WHENEVER YOU PLEASE.Published 10 months ago by C. R. Bullock
Arrived prior to the estimated date and in excellent condition, as described. Much appreciated.Published 12 months ago by wallace