Robert Macfarlane is a nature writer who gives you so much more – science, geology, landscape, history, folklore, myth, environment, oral history. Tempted by the amazing cover – a detail of ‘Nether’ by Stanley Donwood – I bought Underland and was hooked from the first sentence. ‘The way into the underland is through the riven trunk of an old ash tree’.
Macfarlane goes underground – into the catacombs of Paris, remote Arctic sea caves, down moulins in Greenland glaciers, follows underground rivers through the Karst in Slovenia, ending in Finland where a tomb is being constructed to house nuclear waste – discovering stories about our ancestors and the world they lived in. A wide-ranging book, informative as well as interesting, Macfarlane writes with a feeling for language that locks into your emotions. As the chapters progress – each setting is underground, extreme and challenging – Macfarlane consults experts and explores inaccessible places. Juxtaposed with the examination of nature and science, he writes a travel story involving caving, mountaineering, exploration and survival skills. He writes of places the reader is unlikely ever to visit. Such as the calving face of the Knud Rasmussen glacier in Greenland, ‘Birds gather on the silt blooms, feeding on their richness. They are the only scale-givers at this distance, and they are as small as flies.’
Definitely one for re-reading. Some chapters I expected to enjoy, others I was less sure about – but I enjoyed them all, some new territory for me. Such as ‘The Understorey’ about the ‘wood wide web’ of tree-fungus mutualism underground. Macfarlane weaves a story of multiple stories, asking the question – what sort of ancestors will we be?
Fascinating. A non-fiction book to be dwelled upon, rather than rushed.
BUY THE BOOK
If you like this, try:-
‘Landmarks’ by Robert Macfarlane
‘English Pastoral’ by James Rebanks
‘The Wild Silence’ by Raynor Winn
And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
#BookReview UNDERLAND by @RobGMacfarlane #nature #science #travel https://wp.me/p5gEM4-4St via @SandraDanby