Ghostways: Two Journeys in Unquiet Places

Norton. Nov. 2020. 144p. ISBN 9781324015826. pap. $15.95. NAT HIST
Macfarlane, an acclaimed close reader of landscapes (Underland), leads this collaborative effort to capture two “eerie” places. This volume collects the books Ness and Holloway, the latter cowritten with Dan Richards (Climbing Days); tying it all together are artist and writer Donwood’s sombre woodcuts. Ness tells of Orford Ness, an isolated shingle spit off England’s Suffolk coast that was used through much of the 20th century for secret military purposes. Left to nature under a government program termed controlled ruination, the island is home now to derelict buildings, tidal drift, and wildness. Less formally challenging is Holloway, an account of two journeys Macfarlane and friends took to the sunken lanes of south Dorset—paths worn into the ground by “centuries of foot-fall, hoof-hit, wheel-roll & rain-run.” It’s a shade world populated with memories of his late friend (and fellow walker) Roger Deakin and the ghosts of some others who walked, hid, and experienced violence there. The authors’ voices meld wonderfully, and readers may come to feel that “paths run through people as surely as they run through places.”
VERDICT Complete with instructions for reading, this book showcases some of Macfarlane’s most genre-defying work.
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