The older I get the more dramatically my reading habits change. From reading entirely new genres, to joining groups and getting a bookish debate going to…well, not finishing the darned things if I’m simply not feeling it. I am far fussier these days and, let’s face it, we’ll never manage to read all the books we want in our lifetime so why mess around?
Once upon a time, unfinished books would not even feature on this blog but being honest with myself as to why I don’t like something is becoming increasingly important to me. Particularly when it comes to something I really should have lapped up.
The Moor by William Atkins is a travelogue cum historical cum natural cum literary landscape of the moorland of Britain. Travelling from the deep south of Bodmin and Dartmoor to the lofty heights of the Scottish borders, I was unreasonably excited about this book before I even received it; expectations that were always going to be far too high to fulfill.
Our little village sits just under the lee of a hillside that leads swiftly up to vast, inhospitable moorland; littered with gritstone outcrops, gobbly red grouse and hazardous pools of peaty muck. I adore it. Wet and wild is the landscape for me. One that authors throughout history have drawn inspiration from (Wuthering Heights being the all too obvious example) and one that inspires me, after a long haul out on the hills, to curl up in front of the fire with a good book and a cheeky tipple of some sort.
Surely, therefore, I am William Atkins’ target market? Why then, did I abandon this admirable project? The simple answer is that I became so very, very bored (a bit like the man on the front cover).
This theme is fascinating but there is only so much one can soak in the way it is presented here; an opinion I feel quite guilty about because within these pages clearly lies a very personal journey for the author. One that, if you have experienced moorland and its pull as profoundly as Atkins has since childhood, you can’t help but sympathise with.
This book contains intervals of great poetic beauty and an impressive understanding of the colour, taste and topography of a landscape. That said, the monotonous descriptions of black peat and warbling grouse did start to get on my nerves after a while and an enduring feeling of déjà vu prevailed, with the desire to get out a red pen and conduct some much-needed editing.
Negativity aside, there are some informative little montages that added depth to the monotony that I simply can’t wait to try out on the boyfriend when we next go moor-hopping; an exploration of the austere HMP Dartmoor and its inhabitants was hugely intriguing, as was the portrait of a bee-keeping moorland monk I so loved. Atkins’ sense of history, particularly of the local variety, is flawless and the plethora of true/legendary stories attached to the moor are unstoppable.
William Atkins clearly understands English moorland in all her wild beauty, but he doesn’t understand me. I’m a fickle, feckless reader and perhaps I simply don’t have the stamina for this kind of contemplation at the moment, whatever the topic. Alternatively, is this book just a little too ambitious? The topics too wide? The style too plodding? …. All you moorland lovers out there, do give it a shot and let me know what you think. I’d love to give this book another go.