Shadowlands: A Journey Through Britain’s Lost Cities and Vanished Villages

Norton. Jul. 2022. 368p. ISBN 9780393635348. $27.95. HIST
First-time author Green’s haunting travelogue through Britain’s disappeared places is both an examination of the historical forces that led to their abandonment and a meditation on the presence of absence in physical and emotional landscapes. From the Neolithic settlement of Skara Brae in Scotland’s Orkney Isles, nearly perfectly preserved beneath the coastal sands, to the Welsh village of Capel Celyn, drowned beneath the waters of a reservoir, Green skillfully imagines what life was like in each location before its demise. He contrasts visions of vitality with the melancholy stillness of each site’s present state. In the 13th century destruction of Winchelsea, a once-prosperous port swallowed up by encroaching tides, Green sees a timely warning of environmental disaster, while the poignant story of Wharram Percy—a village that faded away in the years after the plague--serves as a reminder of how world events can upend local economies. In each case, Green evokes the deep loss felt by the displaced as livelihoods, traditions, and cultures disappeared along with the communities that supported them.
VERDICT Through these slices of British history, Green has woven a moving exploration of impermanence, memory, and the hypnotic allure of the past.
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