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Over written; with contrived and high-sounding reporting of fairly commonplace events at the locations travelled to by the author. Some gems, however, hidden among pages of very average writing. Disappointed with the writing overall.
I've just completed a reading of this book for the second time, as I had returned to it after having read the author's 'The Old Ways and 'Landmarks'. For me 'The Wild Places' remains Macfarlane's best work and perhaps I prefer it to the other books I mention because it has a certain simplicity and is certainly less 'wordy' than the other titles I mention. The authors journeys to wild places in Britain and Ireland are beautifully described, as are the effects each have upon him, and it is wonderful to progress through the pages and note the changes in perception he has of what 'wild' really is. You really do feel that this change of perception was brought about by the author's human relationships and the relationship with his surroundings and that it wasn't just an additional after thought to add interest to the book. Details of the author's relationship and regard for the late Roger Deakin added much to the book, not least poignancy. The book deals with humankind's negative effects upon the planet, but nevertheless I finished the book feeling positive. A great work which is thought provoking, inspiring and a damn good read.
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. I evidence him for his ability to explore these wonderful places so completely, man ability that would always have been beyond me. I envy him his wonderful knowledge of so many things, both in the natural and literary worlds. But most of all I envy him his wonderful skill at writing about all these things and weaving them into this fascinating tale of the wild places in the British Isles. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
Lace up your boots before reading this book. Robert Macfarlane goes beyond mere description of Britain’s wildest places. He takes you to each, inviting you to experience outdoor sleeping on desolate mountain tops, near cliff edges and for one night, even on the ice of a frozen tarn. We climb trees with him, study the spectacular wildflowers in the Burren’s limestone pavements, trudge along East Anglian salt-marshes and discover deep wilderness in the most surprising places. Macfarlane writes in a comfortable, accessible style. Every paragraph is packed with fascinating information, not just on nature, geology and geography but about historic figures, other nature writers and personal friends. In particular he describes his friendship with the incomparable country writer Roger Deakin – author of Wildwood and Waterlogged.
If you live and work in a town or city, I think that it would be easy to become engulfed in the cyclical nature of work and home, opening and closing the bedroom curtains every day, and gazing out on an urban landscape. To be balanced about this, if you live and work in the countryside, a similar pattern would emerge, beginning and ending every day with the first and last view being of a rural landscape. But what about those who experience a mixture of the two? I realised a few years ago that everywhere that I had lived from a child until now, although living in/on the edges of a town, I had always had a view of trees or hills or fields from my bedroom window. I might have lived and work (or gone to school) in a town, but the countryside was always a short walk away. I also realised that my parents individually/jointly had a similar experience when I thought back to where they had lived in their lifetimes. In his book, Robert McFarlane feels drawn to travel from his urban home in Cambridgeshire to a selection of diverse rural environments of increasing challenge/contrast - hence "The Wild Places". His experiences and reflections/connections made me think further about my relationship, reconciling urban living with a hankering for more remote rural environments, and whether this might be more than a random preference on my part.
Poetic, exquisitely written. Lovely mixture of travel journal, bits of history, geography and geology. Some reviewers seemed to think it was a very slow book - well, that's exactly the point! You get a sense that every word has been lovingly pondered over as the author tried to find absolutely precisely the perfect word for everything he wanted to say. Highly recommended!
I bought this book based on other reviews but was sadly disappointed. Try as I may to give it a chance, I just couldn't get into it. It's very descriptive and informative and I understand what the author is trying to get across but somehow for me it just doesn't flow. It felt as though I was reading an English essay where the teacher had asked the student to rewrite it with more adjectives and detailed descriptions. The rewritten essay would have been awarded full marks for technicality and it's use of not so common words but I felt it read more like a technical guide than what should have been an entertaining book. Sorry Robert it just didn't work for me.
MacFarlane's prose has the same intricacy as the landscapes he describes. He is as focused on the detail written into the grain of a pebble as he is on the form of a mountain peak. MacFarlane travels far and while over Britain and Ireland to bring us a series of landscape essays and frequently refers back to previous chapters to highlight subtle connections which link places together. He explores how wild places can be found in less obvious locations; often close to home in towns or cities or on the smallest of scales. My only criticism of MacFarlane is he sometimes over-writes. A narrative of a walk will be flowing in beautiful prose and you're there with him. But suddenly, he will take a divergent path onto some other topic. It's not just for a sentence or three to add context, but page after page until you've forgotten the narrative of his walk. Usually this is to add context or reference but for me it gives a staccato feel to his writting and can (for me at least) be a little frustrating. Often too he uses words which he knows are not in common parlance. Perhaps he thinks these provide more accurate vocabulary but I sense there's a small part of him which wants to sound clever. Clever he is though, and the way he weaves his words sets him apart from many writers within this genre. Above all, he writes about what I care about and I feel he's inside my head reading my thoughts. I want to sit aloft in the beech tree with him and share with him that sense of wonderment of this island we call home and gaze out and wonder.
A book I will keep to read again. I found it a relaxing, enjoyable & interesting read the first time but I think I will appreciate it even more second time around. Thought provoking & interesting book full of fascinating facts.