Source: Free review copy received from Wellcome Book Prize Promoters
Shortlisted for 2016 Wellcome Book Prize
Five words from the blurb: Orkney, alcohol, searching, wildlife, hope
The Outrun combines beautiful nature writing with an honest account of one woman’s battle with alcoholism.
Amy Liptrot grew up on Orkney, but longed to escape the confines of these remote islands. At the first opportunity she moved to London, but found it hard to cope with the change of lifestyle. She turned to alcohol and her life quickly disintegrated. This book explains the difficulties she faced and how she overcame them.
I found the descriptions of alcoholism and the treatment of it interesting, but for me it was the nature writing in this book that stood out. I loved learning about the wildlife of Orkney and what it is like to live on these windswept islands. The details of her search for the elusive corncrake were especially good and I loved her descriptions of the birds and marine life that she glimpsed on her travels.
Amy has a special way of looking at the world and her insights were different from anything I’ve read before:
I stand up, alert, from my stone seat: I’ve made a breakthrough – stirred by the energy of the sea and the wind – in understanding my own behaviour. I didn’t find it in a therapist’s office, or by conscientiously working through the programme, or talking to Dee, but outdoors, watching the waves. I’ve been reading about fluid dynamics and the mathematical criteria for wave breaking, when the wave height is move than one-seventh of the wavelength. There are different types of breaking waves – spilling, plunging, collapsing, surging – but although they all collapse in different manners, there is only so much height any wave can achieve before it comes crashing down.
I loved the analytical writing style and the way it never became sentimental or self-pitying.
The Outrun is an engaging book which shows how the challenges of life can be overcome by slowing down and observing the natural world. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading about wildlife, especially those with a passion for birds.