Have heard about this book on Radio Scotland I decided to buy it. It is a fantastic book that any mountain climber or hill walker can relate to. It is also a book that will delight with each reading you do of it.
I read and thoroughly enjoyed this quite wonderful love letter to the Cairngorms two years ago. Last week, I did something I rarely ever do , I re read it, a result of having taken a short walking holiday in these fascinating mountains in late May with warm sunshine aplenty but still much snow in the corries. Having been there and experienced just a little of this landscape that Nan Shepherd knew and loved so well, what was good now seems to have become inspirational and deeply moving ,in a way I normally only find with a great poem. There are so few places left in these Isles, perhaps none in England where grandeur, solitude, danger and beauty combine to such effect and certainly nowhere which has stirred such empathy, warmth and perceptive writing. Nam takes such pleasure in being in the landscape and for us there is the deep pleasure of sharing this with her. Hopefully, her powerful poems will soon be available on Kindle too but be no in doubt, this book will satisfy you in ways only the finest view or the finest dram or the finest love can ever do
I enjoyed reading this wonderful book enormously and will certainly read it again. Nan Shepherd conjures up the living mountain in our mind's eye in a way that is both poetical and spiritual and yet it is not fey or fanciful. Her writing about all the many aspects of the mountains in both harsh winter and fragrant summer is of the best kind, leaving the reader in a state of wonder and with a desire to go to the Cairngorms and discover for themselves the delights of this place. Her descriptions of snow and ice, water and earth, trees and heather, the fragrances and feel of rock and land are truly magical and full of truth. I can't recommend it highly enough. With a fine introduction by Robert MacFarlane, this book is for anyone who loves being outdoors and understanding our the planet we live on.
It is simply the thing itself, the harshly beautiful Cairngorm hills, described from a luminous, floating perspective.
Nan Shepherd was writing in the 1940s, during the war, but there is virtually no trace of that time, or any other. She seems most transported in the tougher conditions of cloud, rain and winter, when there is least separation between hill and human.
She writes with the economy and exactness of a Hockney line drawing.
I can't hear her accent in the words - the language is so precise that she might come across like Miss Jean Brodie, but surely that is not how she sounded - and, besides, she relishes a number of evocative dialect words. Her voice must have been distinctive and local, given her strong sense of place and her lifelong attachment to Deeside and the inland hills.
Unusually, people and literary anecdotes are largely absent - though there are deft pen-portraits of tough hill-dwellers near the end of the book.
Nan Shepherd achieves in the Living Mountain,an irradiation of the `common' into the `universal'.She is a friend of the mountains and visits them like a friend.She sees the mountain tops as eddies on the plateau surface.This is a pilgrimage of mountain worship. As a'see-er' her empiricism is mystical.Her mineral self gains entry into interior recesses,cavities,hollows,chasms.She sees the earth as the earth must see itself:this is pure intellectual knowledge springing from the senses and the surprise of finding out from long acquaintance,the body itself thinks, knowledge is felt.Our bodies' motor-functions make us precognitively aware of the world,our subjectivity is embedded in the flesh of the world.'Place and mind interpenetrate until the nature of both are altered'.Our contact with nature has become enervated from this being in the world.Her book is a hymn to `living all the way through':to touching,smelling,tasting,and hearing the world.`Matter is impregnated with mind',and the world exists in a continuous `active mood...the grammar of now'.Her phenomenological attention and awareness `widen the domain of being in the vastness of non-being'.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough.This book is a primer for the senses and the reading of the written word,bathed in a crystal glow of the elements,saturated with Being.Her descriptions of running water,its sounds and colour,coldness and power,are superb;her beautiful depiction of frost,ice and snow,the forms they all take,the effects of wind,cloud ,sun,light and water on,with blizzards,snow-blindness and storms;the effects of air,rain and light on the mountains,the effects of haze and mist are truly wondrous;her descriptions of the rock of the granite boss being `red',its feldspar `pink',crags,boulders and scree are `weathered to a cold grey',but the rock where newly slashed or under water is red.When her book opens up to plants,animals and birds,we truly see the aspects of the one entity,the living mountain,"love pursued with fervour is one of the roads of knowledge",reminding you of MacDarmiad's poetry or Matthiessen's Snow Leopard.There is a map of the Cairngorms plateau and a helpful glossary of Scottish words.This book can be got for as little as £3 if you do without Macfarlane's introduction.
I chose this to read for our book club having heard good reviews on radio 4. The language the author uses to describe different aspects of the mountains is very good but it is quite difficult to read because there isn't a storyline. I think it is a book to dip into. The introduction is far too long and and i would suggest to a new reader not bothering with it.
Possibly the most beautiful writing I've ever read. It's only 101 pages long. Her language is crystalline and transparent, and this is actually poetry. It's so beautiful that reading a couple of paragraphs clears my mind and lifts me to a place I had forgotten and where I would rather be.
I don't know the Cairngorms but the hills of Skye, but this will do fine.
This is the next best thing. Whilst TV and video can portray the majesty and beauty of a mountain, this book touches aspects that they never can, whether this is the smell or the sensation of mist wrapping itself around you in seconds.
I have never climbed a mountain and probably never will, and I suspect it would have benefited my reading of the book if I had as some of the terms meant little to me, yet I still gained a great sense of how personal the mountain can feel to a climber/walker.
The book is beautiful to look at and well written, if slightly poetic in places.
Overall, I'm sure that this is a book that I will re-visit a few times.
I came to this book foot-dragging and grudgingly, as I'd read extracts in MacFarlane's dense The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot, and the passages selected appeared similarly heavy, obscure and uninspiring. However, I found her name-checked by further nature/outdoor writers, including Jim Perrin, Guardian columnist, read the Amazon reviews, and the rest is a blissful discovery.
Anyone who shares her deep affection for the hills will recognise a kindred spirit here: someone who lives by the call "I to the hills will lift mine eyes". She ranges over the geology, the sky, weather, water, trees, plants and wildlife, and the hardened characters who live from it, with a keen and penetrating eye, alive to the magic and mystery in the everyday.
She shares her sense of awe and rapture in the interplay of light, water and mountain, or the cloaking magic of mist, and the tricks it plays on the walker's perception. The sensuality of the colours, feeling ('the hands have an infinity of pleasure in them'), scents, sounds and tastes of all that you encounter in the hills, is grounded in the deeper spiritual connection she finds within the 'Living Mountain', close to Buddhist meditation/pilgrimage.
The strong characters she encounters have something of the quality of Wordsworth's hillside figures, almost part of the hard, yet generous, enduring landscape itself. It could be argued that her spiritual vision seems to embrace both Zen and Pantheist ways of being, with the shared sense of 'inner journey'. The further I read, the more I shook my head at her insights into the relationship regular hill-walkers enjoy with mountains, as her spare, lucid prose brought back memories and emotions I'd thought forgotten.
This small booklet will easily slip into a pocket, but in the true tradition of 'less is more', has an insight and sensual and spiritual depth almost beyond measure. Small wonder Jim Perrin salutes it as "the finest book ever written on nature and landscape in Britain". My one regret is that I never met this fascinating woman, and took so long to encounter her mesmerising prose.
Whether you walk on big hills or small, this little volume should enrich your every outing. Really essential reading.
I love the part that Nan Shepherd wrote. I laboured for a while with Robert Macfarlane's introduction before giving up. I've read and enjoyed Macfarlane's work in the past, but this over egged piece was getting in the way of the book for me. Nan Shepherd portrays the emotional engagement with the outdoors with intelligence and empathy without overcognitising it. Fantastic writing, but skip the introduction. Sorry Robert.