The Wild Places

Robert Macfarlane

The Wild Places

"The Wild Places" is both an intellectual and a physical journey, and Macfarlane travels in time as well as space. Guided by monks, questers, scientists, philosophers, poets and artists, both living and dead, he explores our changing ideas of the wild. From the cliffs of Cape Wrath, to the holloways of Dorset, the storm-beaches of Norfolk, the saltmarshes and estuaries of Essex, and the moors of Rannoch and the Pennines, his journeys become the conductors of people and cultures, past and present, who have had intense relationships with these places.Certain birds, animals, trees and objects - snow-hares, falcons, beeches, crows, suns, white stones - recur, and as it progresses this densely patterned book begins to bind tighter and tighter. At once a wonder voyage, an adventure story, an exercise in visionary cartography, and a work of natural history, it is written in a style and a form as unusual as the places with which it is concerned. It also tells the story of a friendship, and of a loss. It mixes history, memory and landscape in a strange and beautiful evocation of wildness and its vital importance. 4.6 out of 5 based on 10 reviews
The Wild Places

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre Science & Nature, Travel, Essays, Journals & Letters
Format Paperback
Pages 352
RRP £8.99
Date of Publication July 2008
ISBN 978-1847080189
Publisher Granta
 

"The Wild Places" is both an intellectual and a physical journey, and Macfarlane travels in time as well as space. Guided by monks, questers, scientists, philosophers, poets and artists, both living and dead, he explores our changing ideas of the wild. From the cliffs of Cape Wrath, to the holloways of Dorset, the storm-beaches of Norfolk, the saltmarshes and estuaries of Essex, and the moors of Rannoch and the Pennines, his journeys become the conductors of people and cultures, past and present, who have had intense relationships with these places.Certain birds, animals, trees and objects - snow-hares, falcons, beeches, crows, suns, white stones - recur, and as it progresses this densely patterned book begins to bind tighter and tighter. At once a wonder voyage, an adventure story, an exercise in visionary cartography, and a work of natural history, it is written in a style and a form as unusual as the places with which it is concerned. It also tells the story of a friendship, and of a loss. It mixes history, memory and landscape in a strange and beautiful evocation of wildness and its vital importance.

This book was first published in September 2007.

Reviews

The Independent

Adam Nicolson

This is not a book of descriptive brilliance, but of controlled eloquence. There is no rage or anger, little that is actually wild, but delicate, conformist, careful. There is a certain disdain for the common man... But that, perhaps, is the price to pay for the fineness of a sensibility which suffuses his account of a walk in Cumbria at night in 15 degrees of frost... It is in the end a deeply stirring book, in being able to find the vivid wild in places that are so trammelled with our sterile banks of knowledge about them.

31/08/2007

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The New York Times

Holly Morris

[Macfarlane's] book about a series of pilgrimages to the moors, islands, lochs, capes and holloways that season the British Isles might seem quaint... Yet “The Wild Places” is anything but twee. It is a formidable consideration by a naturalist who can unfurl a sentence — poetry, really — with the breathless ease of a master angler, a writer whose ideas and reach far transcend the physical region he explores.

24/04/2009

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The Spectator

Oliver Rackham

[Macfarlane] describes [the wild places] with love and verve, celebrating not only the places but others — poets, warriors, mapmakers, eccentrics, friends — who have loved them before, and making some surprising parallels with other ages and other parts of the world. Whether words without pictures would mean anything to a reader who had not already some experience of similar places I find hard to say... I often meet the assertion that ‘Cambridge no longer breeds the eccentric dons that were its glory’... Robert Macfarlane is a living disproof of the assertion.

29/08/2007

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The Daily Telegraph

Nicholas Bagnall

Writing about the natural world invites pseudery and purple prose; Robert Macfarlane, like his late friend and colleague Roger Deakin, avoids such traps. Nor is this, as it might have been, a mere lament for the wild places we've taken over and lost. It is a very well-written tribute to the splendours we have managed to keep.

20/07/2008

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The Daily Telegraph

Jeremy Seal

With The Wild Places, a brilliantly descriptive 'prose map that would seek to make some of the remaining wild places of the archipelago visible again', [Macfarlane] has confirmed himself as a writer born to explore the lure of the remote. He also demonstrates, in these days of environmental soul-searching, an enviably attuned sense of timing.

13/09/2007

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The Financial Times

James Urquhart

Whether bivouacking by a frozen tarn or hiking Cumbria’s moonlit snowy ridges, Macfarlane exhilarates not just by his adventuring, but by his sense of “a felt relationship with the natural world”. Literary, historical and scientific insights give The Wild Places depth, but its fascination comes from the close observation that Macfarlane shares with Barry Lopez, Kathleen Jamie and other pilgrims to the more surprising parts of our natural environment.

28/07/2008

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The Guardian

Judith Rice

This book is lovely in its limpid prose and generous observation, and in the way that, everywhere he goes, he takes with him his literary and historical understanding and peoples the land with the words and lives of those who have been there before.

26/07/2008

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The Sunday Times

Philip Marsden

Prose as precise as this is not just evocative. It is a manifesto in itself. Macfarlane’s language urges us to gaze more closely at the wonders around us, to take notice, to remind ourselves how thrillingly alive a spell in the wild can make us feel. It is a measure of the distance we have strayed from the natural world that The Wild Places should be so poignant, so full of yearning, and so apt. Five hundred years ago, before the acquisitive and cushioning effects of the Enlightenment, such a work would have appeared either incomprehensible or too obvious. We might hope that anyone picking it up in another 500 years will feel just as baffled.

26/07/2007

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The Guardian

Andrew Motion

He is a dab hand at coining bright images (in the Burren he sees "dozens of trees standing in their own reflections, like playing-card kings"), his vocabulary is deep and diverse ("sinters", "lenticles", "fletched", "sigil"), and his mood is generally close to rapture. The benefits are intense watchfulness, well-directed cleverness, and a likeable sense of deep engagement with his subject. The disadvantages are a slight monotony of tone, a tendency to over-writing or quaintness (looking "upon" something rather than simply looking "at" it) and - cumulatively - a complicated sense of self-effacement.

25/08/2008

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The Times

Ross Leckie

Like MacFarlane's first book, Mountains of the Mind, this has won prizes and universal praise. But I, for one, hope that MacFarlane's sensibilities and writing will try less hard as he ages. “I appreciated the effort that the moonlight had made to reach me.” His much-lauded prose can be sublime. “Ideas, like waves, have fetches.” But it can be pretentious too. Can the blue of a sky really be “slurless”, for example? It was the description of the gaps between the seats of a car as “grykes” that finished me.

18/07/2008

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