To the River: A Journey Beneath the Surface by Olivia Laing - review by Alexandra Harris

Alexandra Harris

Everything Flows

To the River: A Journey Beneath the Surface


Canongate 281pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

On a hot June afternoon, a golden cloud of pollen comes wheeling across a Sussex meadow. It is too late in the year for alder or hazel, though it might be nettle or dock: it is hard to distinguish at a distance the architecture of the grains. ‘Didn’t Plato think there was a wind that could impregnate horses? It couldn’t have been more fertile than this generative swarm, twelve feet long and a yard wide, that rolled towards the waiting flowers.’

This is one among a swarm of strange, striking images that rise up from the surface of Olivia Laing’s account of her walk along the River Ouse. To the River is a brave, distinctive, and deeply intelligent addition to that protean genre mixing nature, history and travel writing

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