Literary Criticism The Moor by WIlliam Atkins | Book Review Roundup | The Omnivore

Published on May 14th, 2014


The Moor: Lives, Landscape, Literature by William Atkins

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Blurb: In this deeply personal journey across our nation’s most forbidding and most mysterious terrain, William Atkins takes the reader from south to north, in search of the heart of this elusive landscape. His account is both travelogue and natural history, and an exploration of moorland’s uniquely captivating position in our literature, history and psyche. Atkins may be a solitary wanderer across these vast expanses, but his journey is full of encounters, busy with the voices of the moors, past and present: murderers and monks, smugglers and priests, gamekeepers and ramblers, miners and poets, developers and environmentalists. As he travels, he shows us that the fierce landscapes we associate withWuthering Heights and The Hound of the Baskervilles are far from being untouched wildernesses. Daunting and defiant, the moors echo with tales of a country and the people who live in it – a mighty, age-old landscape standing steadfast against the passage of time.

(Faber, 2014)

Blake Morrison, The Guardian 

“One of the strengths of Atkins’s book is its resistance to the obvious. He doesn’t dwell on Brady and Hindley, or the Brontës and Top Withens, or the mass trespass on Kinder Scout, because those moorland stories are well known. And though he touches on all the famous moorland fictions –Wuthering HeightsThe Hound of the BaskervillesJamaica InnTarka the OtterKidnappedThe Secret GardenLorna DooneTreasure Island – he gives more weight to authors few will have heard of, including Beatrice Chase, Canon Atkinson, Frank Elgee and Joan Rockwell, the last an American whose would-be wry account of living in the north of England he finds angrily defaced in the local library.”

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John Carey, The Sunday Times 

“[A] remarkable book… It is [his] ability to cheat expectation that gives him impact as a writer. He can surprise with images of almost baroque extravagance. On Bodmin moor a lapwing breaks cover, “like a paperback blasted from a cannon”. On Exmoor, a newborn kid totters towards him, “rickety as a stool with a leg too short”, leaving a trail of blood on the snow, while in the gorse further up the hill the mother goat gives birth to a second kid. Sudden bursts of beauty amid the gloom have the same rawness. High on Saddleworth a reservoir, sheeted with ice and lit by a moment of sun, has a “piercing purity” that contrasts with the “piss-yellow” slush on the moorland paths.”

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