Underlands: A Journey through Britain’s Lost Landscape by Ted Nield - review by Jan Morris

Jan Morris

Seeking His Quarry

Underlands: A Journey through Britain’s Lost Landscape

By

Granta Books 251pp £20 order from our bookshop
 

I am not an obvious reviewer for this book. It is a profoundly geological work concerning the very matter of the Earth, and all my adult life I have found geology, not economics, to be the most dismal science. Nor am I an addict of the sort of discursive, polymathic prose celebrated in the work of W G Sebald and favoured by Granta, the publisher of Underlands. However I have been entirely won over by Ted Nield’s manipu-lation of the subject and the genre. It is a most appealing thing that he has fashioned here, shaming me of my prejudices and granting me (I hope) pleasurable absolution.

This is not to say that I much enjoyed the geological bits, which are long and learned, but when I saw a Jurassic or an Inferior Oolite approaching me up the page, I generally managed to circumvent it. Luckily the joy of Nield’s technique is that he embeds all the technical stuff, in which he is passionately interested, in non-technical reminiscence and speculation of great charm and humour. His own family background provides a thread for his narrative – among the handful of photographs in the book, three show the author, at different ages, beside

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