You can be pretty sure that if you hear readings from a book on Radio 4 then it’s a pretty good book. And when the author pops up on Radio Scotland’s Out of Doors with Mark Stephen you know we’re talking a bit of nature and countryside. And Big Mark doesn’t just blether to anyone you might recall.
The book itself had arrived through the door the same week, set aside on the holiday pile. But after hearing readings, and the chat with Mark, on the hoof of course, after listening to two familiar voices, I had to give in to temptation. And what a gem of a read it is, as I knew it would be.
Almost a year ago I spent a couple of hours with Linda Cracknell, at Cambo House, and since then read a few of the tales in this new volume. Two were published in her Following Our Fathers, and one in Earthlines magazine – the very reason I wanted to read more.
On the cover there are a few names, words of the wise to tempt you in. Gavin Francis is there; Raja Shehadeh too. And of course Robert Macfarlane, both front and back. It’s not surprising as we’ve also talked about a volume she edited, The Wilder Vein, of walks that others have done. A women of many talents.
Doubling Back is the new volume, Ten Paths Trodden in Memory. Instantly I’m back in the gardens of Cambo, a silk blindfold, other senses wide open. Linda took us for a walk then. It’s a well practised art she has, getting the rhythm of her walking into the flow of her writing, to the very rhyme on the page. Thinking time, reflections.
And so all the walks have those essential ingredients of inner and physical journeys; rich in descriptive narrative; deep in meaning; and in memories.
The previous walks I’d read had been in Norway and Switzerland, and following the old drove roads in Scotland too. In Doubling Back we can delight in those trips again, as well as revisit an early and formative venture in Cornwall, or tramping the dust and the hills of Spain and Kenya. And we trek with Linda to Lindisfarne, following St Cuthbert, travelling light, of load and of heart.
And then she takes us home, to the Birks of Aberfeldy and her path most trodden.
It really is a delightful read, one that takes you there. And it’s not just me, for The Genealogist has been deeply engrossed in Linda’s first venture into fiction, The Call of the Undertow, set in the wilds of Caithness. That one might have to go on my holiday pile instead.
So as I’ve become a big fan of Linda’s work in the past year, I’ll be watching for more from her in the years ahead. Doubling Back would be a good place to start. Book of the Week on R4 is quite an accolade and you might just find some of those readings on the iPlayer. Go on, I’ve given you enough links above, find that one yourself.