Wednesday 24 August 2016

The Outrun by Amy Liptrot

The Outrun by Amy Liptrot

If you follow the Wainwright Prize (which I didn't until recently!) you'll probably have seen that The Outrun just won it, and very deservingly so!

I got in touch with Canongate way back when I featured them in my Make Mine an Indie series to request a copy of this book, and they were kind enough to send one. Firstly can I just say, the cover is gorgeous! And secondly, my goodness does the book live up to the expectations built by its gorgeous cover.

The Outrun is probably one of the best books I've read this year. I do have a soft spot for stories of people overcoming their demons and when paired with so many other interesting things it's both compulsively fascinating and inexplicably soothing. The idea of escaping the city for somewhere remote has always appealed to me, and although there is more of an element of return than escape in Amy Liptrot's book, the idea of healing through solitude and silence resonates strongly with me.

The amount of history in the book was unexpected too, because it was billed as a kind of biographical nature writing which it is, but it also has lots about Orkney's history and traditional and a lot of really interesting stuff about uninhabited islands. I guess it's a by-product of living on an island and being fascinated by the sea, but I've always wondered about all the islands dotted around the edge of the map of the British Isles, and during the course of her recovery throughout the book Amy Liptrot visits several of them and tells a little of their stories.

At one point after her return to Orkney she works for the RSPB and drives around documenting one particular endangered bird. She talks about the experience of spending the hours she would have previously spent drinking and partying driving around by herself listening for the call of this elusive bird.

Although I've never had any problems with addiction myself (besides sugar and book buying!) I definitely relate to solitude and nature (and particularly solitude in nature) as ways to help manage mental health issues. Something about the vastness of the sea, and the incredible things that happen in nature regardless of us is very grounding and always helps to calm my inner critic - a similar experience to what takes place throughout The Outrun.

For me this book was a bit of a gift. It was a reminder that you can't recover unless you confront the problem and that recovery doesn't look the same for everybody. I particularly loved Amy Liptrot's writing. Throughout the book she blended autobiography with history and nature so seemlessly that it all just became part of the story she had to tell. Often when I read books like this I'll skip over the 'boring' parts but in The Outrun there were no boring parts - everything she wrote became interesting because she is an excellent writer.

I honestly can't recommend this book highly enough. If you're at all interested in biography, nature, or how we interact with and function in the natural world and the effects it has on us, you should pick this up. Bonus - it's beautiful!

Order a copy from independent, excellent Wordery (who will pass a small commission my way!) here.

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