Christine Finn

Ground Force

Ancient Wonderings: Journeys into Prehistoric Britain


William Collins 332pp £20 order from our bookshop

There were times, reading James Canton’s companionable Ancient Wonderings, when I was reminded of the television programme The Trip, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon’s banter-filled restaurant tour. Here, for instance, are Canton and his pal Paul walking the ancient Peddars Way from Norfolk to Suffolk:

The path had forced us to walk Indian file.
‘These are spindle shrubs,’ Paul said.
‘Oh, right,’ I said.
They were certainly quite a startling sight, drooping with lurid pink colour.
‘Erm… Euonymus europaeus, I think,’ he added.
‘Impressive,’ I said.

Canton and Paul spend their time trading not local oysters but humbugs, passed ‘like a baton in a relay’. Canton proposes they imagine they are Bronze Age kinsmen, ‘just as a bit of a laugh; a way of trying to get into the mindset of those who walked this path in prehistory’. He is channelling the Amesbury Archer, the so-called ‘King of Stonehenge’, who lived in about 2300 BC and, as we later learn, was dug up under cover of darkness in 2002, courtesy of the headlights of a Peugeot 205.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Something of an 'eccentric billionaire’s hobby': reviews 'The Space Barons: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and… ,
    • "At the age of fifteen, drunk on stolen Chardonnay or stoned on pot at a swimming party, the thoughts that come imm… ,
    • For the latest Bookends, here's Alan Taylor musing on his stint as an assistant librarian. ,
    • A ‘pretentious ass and impotent arriviste’ who surrounded himself with ‘degenerates, hooligans, childish layabouts,… ,
    • . reviews 'Aristotle’s Way: How Ancient Wisdom Can Change Your Life' by ,
    • "As Beevor shows, it was one of the most daring, dangerous and fiercely fought operations of the whole war. It was… ,
    • "The characters are very rich and very male, with astronomical ambitions. The potted biographies in this book sugge… ,