Saturday 28 November 2015

Book Review: Doubling Back by Linda Cracknell

First published last year, when I somehow managed to miss it, this book appeared in paperback in October. By then I’d read and enjoyed the author’s essays on the Walk Highlands website and was interested in reading it. I wasn’t disappointed. The book describes ten walks undertaken by Linda Cracknell that follow in others footsteps in various ways. It’s a contemplative work that pays careful reading – I read some of the pieces twice and found more in them the second time. 

The walks followed vary widely in place – Scotland, Cornwall, Spain, Kenya, Norway, the Alps all feature – and in tone and style, though all are written with precision and care. Some are solo, though thoughts and memories of others are always there, some are with friends. The author’s relationships with people, landscapes and nature are described subtly. The book has an air of restrained but powerful emotion. There are deep feelings here.

Everyone will find something different in this book, and perhaps something different each time it’s read. For me the essays that stood out were the story of Cracknell’s attempt to follow in her father’s footsteps on a mountaineering trip in the Alps, a trip pieced together from postcards and pictures; a walk through the Norwegian mountains tracing the route a companion’s father took when escaping from the Nazis; and a 200-mile solo trip from her home in Perthshire to the Isle of Skye. These were all tough trips, the difficulties mostly understated, though heavy rucksacks are mentioned occasionally.

The writing is about feelings and people, places and the past. The walking almost takes a back seat but it’s there, holding everything together, including, I suspect, the author at times. This is a lovely book, highly recommended.

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