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The Wild Places Paperback – 7 Jul 2008
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"...a naturalist who can unfurl a sentence - poetry really - with the breathless ease of a master angler"
-- International Herald Tribune
"...this is beautiful as well as intelligent writing...a new naturalist to set beside the classics in our literature" -- The Evening Standard
"This beautiful book takes us to tree tops, beaches and mountains... in the company of a supremely lyrical writer" -- The Scotsman
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, and was filmed by the BBC. It was also short-listed for the Ondaatje Prize for the Literature of Place, the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, the Boardman-Tasker Prize for Mountaineering Literature, the Banff Mountain Literature Award, and long-listed for the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction. It was acclaimed as 'one of the two most important books written around the experience of mountains in the past fifty years'. Robert Macfarlane is a Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge. He lives in Cambridge with his family.
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Top Customer Reviews
"Wild" is big book business at the moment and why not? 21st century European life seems to guarantee a divorce between self and environment and people turn to books, if not their walking boots, to fill the gap. Macfarlane visits the wild places of the British Isles and tries to capture their essence in prose for those of us who don't want to stir from our sofas (that includes me by the way). It is an admirable endeavour and an enjoyable read, but I reserve the fourth star for the following reasons:
It is repetitive - there are 3 things that Macfarlane does on every trip: bathe somewhere cold, pick up a stone and sleep in the open. There are only so many ways to describe this routine, without reader fatigue setting in.
There is a distance between the writer and the rest of us he does not care to bridge. Who is he? Why is he qualified to write about the wild? What relevance does it have to the rest of his life? Without answers to these questions, I can't connect with the writing and it becomes chilly and perhaps a touch preachy.
The anecdotes that provide the contrast with the description of place tend to be perfunctory and, again, repetitive. The Highland Clearances and the Potato Famine both figure. There seem to be several poets who keep mental illness at bay/achieve inspiration by walking in the countryside. There are probably general lessons about the historical reasons for some areas being people-free and our relationship with nature, but Macfarlane is coy about drawing them out.
In summary: worth reading, but Deakin is better.
The Wild Places is an attempt to put us back in touch with this elemental communication with our landscape but is also an attempt to physically seek out these places and see if they actually do still exist. If that sounds a bit "Star Trek" it's not meant to, but there is a tangible sense of discovering and exploring to this book so maybe its more pertinent than you thought.
Macfarlane travels the British Isles from his Cambridge base to the windswept wilds of Scotland ,the far west coasts of Wales and Ireland but also find places " where the evidence of human presence was minimal or absent" in lanes in Dorset, the Norfolk coast and the Peak District. He shows admirable commitment to his project bivouacking in woods, dunes , and rocky hollows. He even spends a frigid uncomfortable night in mid-winter on the summit of Ben Hope , one of the times he feels "no companionship with the land" and who can blame him.
This is also a book about ecological damage as well but comes across more as a lament than judgemental hectoring .Much of Britain's wilderness has been destroyed not only in reality but in the abstractions of our minds. We view the landscape through road maps and sat nav and we need he feels , a new cartography that links "headlands ,cliffs beaches, mountaintops, tors ,forests, river-mouths and waterfalls.Read more ›
I understand it was after writing `Mountains of the Mind' that Robert Macfarlane met Roger Deakin, a philosophical environmentalist also producing a book - `Wildwood'. I believe Macfarlane was influenced greatly by Deakin, and much is made of their friendship with homage paid to Deakin after his untimely death. Brief reference is made to Macfarlane's own family, but it is piece-meal and insufficient to know him personally. This is unfortunate as expectations, perceptions and responses to the wild vary with the individual. I suspect not all readers will agree with Robert Macfarlane's definitions of wild places.
`The Wild Places' is presented as a series of landscape essays headed `Beechwood', `Island', Valley', `Moor', etc. in which Macfarlane describes locations, introduces characters met, refers to earlier commentators, explains historical background, and makes literary connections. I enjoyed much of this - especially for locations known to me - but I do not comprehend his adverse reaction to a night on Ben Hope, a mountain I climbed recently [May 2008]. That apart, a pattern emerges throughout the essays and it is somewhat surprising how very different locations are dealt with in similar manner.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A wonderful book that is a 'must-read' for anyone with a sense of adventure and a love of 'wild places'. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Charlotte R.
I ordered this Kindle version by mistake and am unable to cancel it on your site. I have ordered the paperback now.
How do I cancel the kindle??
love this guys writing so poetic and beautifully evocative of place. Stunning actuallyPublished 3 months ago by D. Hall
As I finished this excellent book, I had one overwhelming feeling, envy!
I envied the author for going to places I can only dream of now that I am growing old. Read more
I love walking long distance pathways, in short 10 mile walks. I SO enjoyed this book, it took me out as he wrote and made the office seem far away. Will look for others.Published 6 months ago by Mary