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A gem whose flaws outweigh its beauty
on 11 August 2011
There is definitely a space on the shelf for a simple book about geology for those that go to or are interested in the hills of Britain. Despite the awards that this book has won and the accolades it has received, this doesn't fill that space on my bookshelf.
Now, it may be me; it probably is. I can't fault the intention behind the book or the effort that's gone into it. There are a wealth of photos and line drawings to illustrate text that is written in an easy style, and by someone who has obviously been to many of the places that the UK hillwalker will either have visited or have on their 'to-do' list. But turn to the Acknowledgements - I know, not many do, but bear with me - and you'll see that parts of the book have been published before as magazine articles; chapters 'adapted from' articles is how it is phrased, so no doubt it isn't word for word. And this shows; chapters seven and eleven are of this nature. The first is more anecdote than information, which might be fine for a magazine but doesn't sit right here, and the second shouldn't be a stand-alone chapter at all but included in chapter nine.
And then there are the pictures. Not the line drawings, which are clear and easy to digest, but the illustrations. Many are excellent; many seem to have been blown up beyond the limit at which they were, presumably, scanned from slide or print and have a fuzzy out-of-focus appearance which isn't really acceptable in a picture-rich book of this nature.
Now, I'm not laying the blame for all of this at the door of the author, far from it. The book could have done with the services of a proof-reader, picture editor and editor-in-chief; or perhaps I, in my ignorance and an age of digital publishing, am naive in my expectations. But without them, this is a gem whose flaws outweigh its beauty; many a good walk spoiled.
It's not that you'll get nothing from this book. I hope you join the chorus of approvals and learn lots, enrich your understanding and each and every trip to the hills. But for me, it wasn't the book I was hoping it might be, or that it might have been.