This is one of those books that I kept on picking up in bookshop, drawn by the beautiful cover art. I’d read the back, decide it was a walking book, not a coast / ocean book and put it back. Like most of us, the TBR pile is huge… It wasn’t until it was the Ocean Book Club choice for this month, that I finally started to read. I can’t think why I didn’t start it before – this is a really wonderful book.
The book tells the story of the author and her husband, Moth. After losing their home and business following a bad investment, and Moth’s diagnosis with a terminal illness, they decide to walk the South West Coast Path. This is England’s longest waymarked footpath, and runs from Minehead in Somerset, along the coasts of Devon and Cornwall, and finishes in Poole, Dorset; a distance of 630 miles. This book documents their progress as they walk, progress both geographically along the path and psychologically, as they come to terms with the changes in their lives.
This is a book that makes you think. Primarily, it makes you think about homelessness. About the people who become homeless, the circumstances leading to their homelessness, ways of coping with it, our reactions when we come face-to-face with homeless people, stereotypes, and above all, how we might cope when confronted with this ourselves.
It also makes you think about kindness. The kindness of strangers, in offering shelter and sharing resources. This might be the offer of a safe place to camp, sharing food when you have very little yourself or even offering to rent a flat to people you’ve only just met. Linking in with this, it makes you think about friendships. About the worry of becoming a burden, or the potential for people taking advantage when friendships are no longer between “equals”, but also about the more transitory, but still very real friendships which can arise from shared experiences.
In a world where we never seem to have enough time, it is about having almost nothing but. It is about grief, physical hardship, and loss. About being disconnected from society, and from family, and from the life you had before. Above all though, this is a book about the love of nature, of freedom, and of recovery and healing. It contains some wonderful, evocative descriptions of landscapes, the pleasure of watching a peregrine falcon soaring above you, of swimming in the sea, and of eating salted blackberries.
Fair warning – this is a book which can get you in the “feels”, so be prepared to have it pull on your heart strings in places. But it is also very uplifting, so let it reinforce your love of nature, restore your faith in human nature, and take you away to the wind-swept south coast.
The sequel – The Wild Silence – is out in hardback in September 2020.
Five out of five star(fish) from me…