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The Wild Places Paperback – 7 Jul 2008

4.3 out of 5 stars 166 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Granta Books (7 July 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847080189
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847080189
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.4 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (166 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 12,686 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"...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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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I bought this book after catching the second half of an interview on Radio 4 with Robert Macfarlane. As part of it, he read aloud an exerpt - the first couple of pages, in which he climbs a favourite tree of his in local woodland - and I was immediately struck by his lovely turn of phrase, as well as being hooked by the subject matter (I have chlorophyll instead of blood!). The rest of the book is similarly evocative of what may sadly be a dwindling part of our heritage, and if it doesn't spur you to get OUT and look about you with newly clear eyes... then I'll feel that you have missed something profound, and may shed a (green) tear or two! For anyone who fell in love with Tolkein's landscapes, or Roger Deakin's Wild Wood.
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Format: Hardcover
Is it a coincidence that Roger Deakin and Robert Macfarlane were both writing a book with "wild" in the title at roughly the same time? Deakin, a friend of Macfarlane's, died shortly after completing "Wildwood", Macfarlane was completing his manuscript when Deakin died.

"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.
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By russell clarke VINE VOICE on 16 Sept. 2007
Format: Hardcover
There appears to be a burgeoning body of writers/broadcasters who sense we are on the cusp of losing something we have always had , and maybe taken for granted . TV like "Mountain" and "Coast" and books from the likes of Mark Cocker and Alice Oswald urge us to re-connect with our landscape and nature itself as not only are we detached from what is around us but there may soon come a time when these opportunities become increasingly difficult to seek out.
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.
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By D. Elliott TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 31 Aug. 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Readers will not fail to appreciate Robert Macfarlane's beautiful and evocative prose, or doubt his love of wild locations. However after his excellent `Mountains of the Mind' I found this latest book a huge disappointment. The former was more visionary and it prompted mental exploration, whereas for `The Wild Places' I was left as a bystander to physical exploration - and yet the first was `merely' short-listed for the Boardman-Tasker Award in 2003, and though not a mountaineering or climbing book `The Wild Places' won outright in 2007. So what do I know?

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.
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