Allan Massie

Border Patrol

The Marches: Border Walks with My Father

By

Jonathan Cape 351pp £18.99 order from our bookshop

Rory Stewart, wanderer, writer, once a soldier, briefly deputy governor of an Iraqi province, now a Member of Parliament and a junior minister, has a roving, enquiring mind, which makes him on the page (the only place I know him) most agreeable company. Ostensibly this book is an account of a walk along Hadrian’s Wall (a mere doddle compared to Stewart’s earlier walk across Afghanistan), but he ranges far beyond this. He is (sort of) accompanied by his remarkable nonagenarian father, Brian, who travels by car and meets him at stopping places along the way. Both have the ‘satiable curiosity’ that Kipling ascribed to the elephant’s child. Brian, a proud Scot clad in tartan trews (though he sometimes claims to be Irish), questions Stewart about his findings, occasionally playing deaf when he doesn’t like the answer. Earlier in his life, Brian served as a colonial officer and in the intelligence service; at one point he commanded a battalion of the Black Watch (in an oddity relevant to Stewart’s speculations about the nature of Britain and Britishness, this particular battalion of the famous Scottish regiment was actually raised on Tyneside and composed of Geordies).

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Tarantino's latest film is 'a fairy tale about Hollywood, where fantasy is an industrial product and the boulevards… ,
    • 'I don’t think we’re here on Earth to be Happy. I think we’re here on Earth to help God. I am a messianic writer'.… ,
    • 'Darley’s book is not a mad dash through this most compelling and complex of English counties. Nor is it another ti… ,
    • 'Moser’s book offers such a gripping account of a profoundly damaged human being, trapped in a cycle of repetition,… ,
    • 'Ideas that I’d thought were set down in full continue to smoulder ... this book is only a snapshot of some larger… ,
    • 'Full of invention which, at its most pedestrian, is eminently Victorian, and at its most unrestrained wildly imagi… ,
    • 'What in other hands could have been a dry, pedantic account of Christianity’s birth and evolution becomes in Holla… ,