The Plot: A Biography of an English Acre by Madeleine Bunting - review by Diana Athill

Diana Athill

Lore of the Land

The Plot: A Biography of an English Acre


Granta Books 304pp £18.99

This fine book offers so much that it asks to be reread almost at once. Its purpose sounds simple: to portray a place, and thus to help its author to understand her difficult father, whose life was bound up with that place. But simple it is not. Madeleine Bunting undertook her portrayal with such a powerful combination of curiosity, passion, imagination, sense of history and clear sight that she has uncovered layer after layer of her subject, much of it beautiful, much astonishing, some infuriating, some deeply disturbing, all gripping. It seems unlikely that pondering an acre of ground on the edge of the North York Moors could lead into such a variety of themes, but it does, and every one of them convinces and enlightens.

Her father bought the plot and built a chapel on it with his own hands. He was a sculptor, a Catholic, and above all a romantic inspired by men such as William Morris and Eric Gill to a faith in what he believed to be medieval values, which

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