Book Review: Landmarks

Landmarks, Robert Macfarlane. Book review by Rachel Hazell

How are you grounding yourself in this state of uncertainty? Robert Macfarlane’s erudite writing explores the connection between literature and landscape. All his books illuminate writers who describe the natural world in clear, perceptive detail, but also engage deeply with it.

Landmarks is a guide to the power of language. Each chapter examines different landscapes: Flatlands, Uplands, Waterlands, Coastlands, Underlands, Northlands, Edgelands and Earthlands. Glossaries list descriptions for specific areas. Macfarlane explains how places are defined by those who inhabit them, who know them profoundly. The book is a tribute to writers and word hoarders who have helped him to ‘see these familiar hills, rather than just to look at them.’

It’s tremendously reassuring to be led through contrasting topographies from our armchair, discovering new ways to see where we are.

Though we may be locked down physically, we are free to fly over distant terrain, described so fully, so personably.

Are there words you have begun to use, that you’ve invented for this very particular situation? A new lexicon. It’s going to be interesting to see which definitions make it into a future dictionary.

Make a concertina for your own dictionary of Covid19 words

The final glossary in the book is ‘left blank for future place-words and the reader’s own terms.’ Perhaps your words would fit in a tiny concertina, fastened with a limpet shell? Find the how-to here.

The author notes ‘Books, like landscapes, leave their marks in us.’ I encourage you to keep reading, make your mark, and hold on, wherever you are.

Landmarks by Robert Macfarlane, is published by Hamish Hamilton.

The Guardian review by Kirsty Gunn is here.

Robert Macfarlane is a great person to follow on Twitter right now, for Word of the Day and #CoReadingVirus Global Book Club!

See you next month.

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