“Holloway” by Robert Macfarlane, Stanley Donwood and Dan Richards; a review

 

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A Holloway (hollow way) is a path worn deep into the bedrock, an ‘old way’ as previously described by Robert Macfarlane.

This short book is a travel narrative, a work of naturalism infused by the spiritual, a prose- poem, and a memorial tribute to Roger Deakin, fellow traveler and writer with Macfarlane of the Holloways.

In 2005 Macfarlane and Deakin set out to explore holloways in South Dorset.  There they found a hidden world that shades, patterns and throws back time as it does light.  Sunken, over-grown paths that sheltered fugitive Catholics back in the days of the persecution. The writers take with them a 1939 novel called ‘Rogue Male’ about a fugitive hiding out in the Holloway.

In 2011, after Deakin’s untimely death, Macfarlane returns with artist Stanley Donwood and writer Dan Richards to remember their friend and to trace again the holloways.

This is exhilarating, sensual writing where you breathe deep the scents of earth, leaf and wood and feel the textures under feet and scratching hands and skin.  As the travelers sleep and wake in a holloway you can hear with them an immediate and encompassing dawn chorus, wonder and fear at oceans of mist, feel a primal fear as they bolt from torch-lights after a night at the pub.

Donwood’s illustrations also convey well the deep enclosed mystery of these grooves of history, these greened and worn tunnels into the past.

This is a short book that leaves a long, evening shadow of an impression. 

 

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