Popsugar Reading Challenge – Book 37

Prompt: A book set mostly or entirely outdoors

I had originally chosen Where The Crawdads Sing for this prompt as it has been gathering dust on my TBR pile for far too long and everyone I have spoken to has said such positive things about the book. I will definitely get around to reading it soon, I promise! Instead, I have gone for Walking The Invisible by Michael Stewart as the lovely folks at Harper Collins sent me a proof copy.

What it’s about?

Michael Stewart has been captivated by the Brontes since he was a child, and has travelled all over the north of England in search of their lives and landscapes. Now, he’d like to invite you into the world as they would have seen it.

Following in the footsteps of the Brontes across meadow and moor, through village and town, award-winning writer Michael Stewart takes a series of inspirational walks through the lives and landscapes of the Bronte family, investigating the geographical and social features that shaped their work.

This is a literary study of both the social and natural history that has inspired writers and walkers, and the writings of a family that have touched readers for generations. Finally we get to understand the ‘wild, windy moors’ that Kate Bush sang about in ‘Wuthering Heights’, see the imposing halls that may have inspired Thornfield Hall in Jane Eyre, and learn about Bramwell’s affair with a real life Mrs Robinson while treading the same landscapes. As well as describing in vivid detail the natural beauty of the moors and their surroundings, Walking the Invisible also encompasses the history of the north and the changing lives of those that have lived there.

What I think:

This is a tough one for me. I really wanted to love this book and there were so many things to admire and enjoy about it. Having said that I found the lack of depth at certain points really frustrating and the tone of the writing didn’t always sit well with me.

The writer has such a string personal connection with the Brontes and this part of Yorkshire that comes across throughout the book. Stewart embarks on a cross country walk, recreating Mr Earnshaws journey to Liverpool. He alsotalks about the key Bronte locations and the walks that have been planned around each of the sisters.

The walks themselves sound fantastic. I am definitely going to try and visit Bronte country in the near future and spend sometime walking. Its such an important aspect of the Brontes’ lives and writing that it is a wonderful way to connect with the writing. I studied Wuthering Heights at A Level and have revisited it many times over the years.

There are some fascinating arguments made for the inspiration of some locations over others. I found some frustrating as they did not always go into enough detail and left me wanting more. In contrast, some of the more detailed historical accounts seemed less relevant and perhaps a passion of the writer.

While the writer’s love and knowledge of the Brontes is clearly apparent, there are times where his voice is less appealing. His own preferences mean that he repeatedly criticises pubs that he feels are now gastropubs rather than alehouses for working men. He also includes a story in which one of his waking tour clients is repeatedly offensive towards Romanians with neither challenge or comment. The story adds nothing other than a moment of uncomfortable reading and I wonder why it was included.

Thanks to Harper Collins for my gifted proof copy of the book. I’m off to research walling holidays in Bronte country.

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