the guardian Fri 25 July 2008
Slowly, thoughtfully, we wander through the British and Irish landscape in an inspired attempt to "draw up a prose map that would seek to make some of the remaining wild places of the archipelago visible again, or that would record them before they vanished for good". Macfarlane is an academic with a love for climbing, walking and sleeping outside. He's written eloquently on these subjects before, blending descriptions of his own experiences with an intricate knowledge of the literature. This book is lovely in its limpid prose and generous observation, and in the way that, everywhere he goes, he takes with him his literary and historical understanding and peoples the land with the words and lives of those who have been there before. It's also an elegy for his friend, the late Roger Deakin, another great writer of the wild, who helps him see that wildness can also be at work in miniature, in local and exuberant growth. The Wild Places hinges on his change in perception, but it cannot be reduced to this. It is the journeys that compel.