SOCIAL SCIENCES

The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot

Viking. 2012. c.448p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780670025114. $27.95. TRAV
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OrangeReviewStarWalking is an intimate way to experience a landscape because it proceeds at a pace that lets travelers contemplate nature, history, and self. In his travels around Great Britain and other countries, Macfarlane (English, Univ. of Cambridge; The Wild Places) follows a variety of old paths (called "ways") on both land and sea, some that date back thousands of years. This highly readable narrative weaves together landscape, local history and myth, art, literature, natural history, ritual, and the internal dialog familiar to any who have spent time alone in nature. The people he meets and the places he visits are luminous and extraordinary in the retelling as Macfarlane explores the idea of place and of self as well as the close relationship between the two. The book closes with a brief biography of fellow path walker and author Edward Thomas (1878–1917), from whom Macfarlane draws inspiration throughout the work.
VERDICT The author's love of the land and his elegant use of metaphor make for a moving book that anyone who loves being part of nature will treasure.

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