Andrew Greig

Paths to Enlightenment

The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot

By

Hamish Hamilton 419pp £20 order from our bookshop

The Old Ways is ‘the third book in a loose trilogy about landscape and the human heart’, the other two being Mountains of the Mind and The Wild Places. They offer a lucid and often beguiling mix of sustained reflection, social, cultural and historical contexts, natural history and wide reading, all strung along first-person narrative episodes.

At the outset Macfarlane leaves his desk after heavy snowfall, walks out of the suburb, by lanes and paths across golf courses and open fields, into the snow-lit, animal-tracked night. It is the familiar world made strange, vivid and new. ‘The moonlight, falling at a slant, deepened the dark in the nearer tracks so that they appeared full as inkwells’ – the observation is precise, the simile earned. He notes that rabbit prints in snow ‘resemble a Halloween ghost mask, or the face of Edvard Munch’s screamer’, and once they are described, we see it is so.

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

    • 'I was dumbfounded by the view of the Berlin Wall from the eastern side. It seemed inconceivable that in under thre… ,
    • RT : Danger for ‘local’ staff, access in exchange for silence (and logos) - all sounds familiar in this fascinating look… ,
    • 'He has long been eclipsed by Vermeer, though his interiors are arguably more ambitious.' David Gelber on the Dutc… ,
    • 'The wicked are truly revolting and the rage is wholly understandable' on new thrillers by John Le… ,
    • In @aaciman's sequel to 'Call Me By Your Name', 'Erotic urgency has merged with middle age’s frugality of heart', s… ,
    • 'The repression of free speech in Uganda is common. Reporters Without Borders’ 2019 Press Freedom Index ranks Ugand… ,
    • RT : The Topeka School is out today! I reviewed it for and I'm psyched to see him talking at the Tate tonigh… ,