To the River

To the River : A Journey Beneath the Surface

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To the River is the story of the Ouse, the Sussex river in which Virginia Woolf drowned in 1941. One idyllic, midsummer week over sixty years later, Olivia Laing walked Woolf's river from source to sea. The result is a passionate investigation into how history resides in a landscape - and how ghosts never quite leave the places they love.

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Product details

  • Paperback | 304 pages
  • 128 x 196 x 22mm | 222.26g
  • Canongate Books Ltd
  • Edinburgh, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Main
  • Illustrations, map
  • 1847677932
  • 9781847677938
  • 102,806

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Review quote

A gentle, wise and riddling book. Its prose, like the river it describes, flows intricately, unpredictably and often beautifully, carrying the fascinated reader onwards -- ROBERT MACFARLANE Without wanting to sound gushing, her writing at its sublime best reminds me of Richard Mabey's nature prose and the poetry of Alice Oswald. Like these two, and John Clare before them, Laing seems to lack a layer of skin, rendering her susceptible to the smallest vibrations of the natural world as well as to the frailties of the human psyche. -- Jane Wheatley * The Times * A magical book ... her dreamy prose evokes a modern Alice, an hallucinatory tale told with one hand trailing in cool green water, while she wishes out folklore and science, history and biography ... By turns lyrical, melancholic and exultant, To the River just makes you want to follow Olivia Laing all the way to the sea. -- Philip Hoare * Sunday Telegraph * A brave, distinctive, and deeply intelligent addition to that protean genre mixing nature, history and travel writing which is becoming one of the richest forms of contemporary British literature... There are passages of masterfully timed lyricism -- ALEXANDRA HARRIS * Literary Review * Olivia Laing is a new and thoughtful voice in the tradition of W.G. Sebald. I confidently expect it to be listed in this year's favourite books -- Joan Bakewell * Daily Telegraph * Arrestingly beautiful... This is an uplifting book, which not only develops into a work of considerable richness, but...expresses its message of hope with increasing lyricism and uncluttered simplicity -- Juliette Nicholson * Evening Standard * Nature Writing is the new Rock 'n' Roll * The Times * [A] beautifully written meditation on landscape and the effect on it, benign and destructive, of generations of human beings * The Sunday Times * [Laing] conveys vision and sensation with great clarift and vividness. ... Of Olivia Laing's prose, we could simply say that words have a way with her and that her delight in language is at one with her absorption in the living world -- Laura Marcus * TLS * A refreshing, and inspiring, real-life story ... Relive Laing's journey and you'll be inspired to get out into nature more often * Psychologies * Beautifully written...A great read that will make you want to head to the Sussex countryside * Woman * Wonderfully allusive...The book's subject and structure fuse pleasingly, weaving and meandering, pooling into biographical, mythical or historical backwaters * Observer * A missive filled with erudite observations of the land and water in the heady in-breath of summer... its beauty and conclusions find a critical hold in both academic and emotive axes -- Renee Rowland * The Skinny * A meditation, a drifting sequence of thoughts on time and change, on loss, love and meaning, on hell and happiness, geology and evolution, science and poetry * Spectator * Gorgeous, lyrical...a gentle, wise, observant book, both sparkling and mysterious. ... Laing's writing - sometimes clear, sometimes shifting and oblique, always appropriate to the tale she's telling - is a joy * Metro * This hugely accomplished first book draws on local lore and history, a vast range of research and some soaring Lyrical writing -- Anthony Sattin * Sunday Times * Written with the lyrical beauty of poetry...this entertains informs and inspires in equal measure * Good Book Guide *

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About Olivia Laing

Olivia Laing lives in Brighton. Between 2007 and 2009, she was the Observer's Deputy Books Editor. She writes and reviews widely, for the Observer, the New Statesman, the TLS and the Guardian among other publications. She has a first class BSc (Hons) in herbal medicine, and practised as a medical herbalist for several years before becoming a journalist, specialising in the treatment of anxiety and depression. Olivia Laing has been awarded a MacDowell Fellowship and grants from the Arts Council and Author's Foundation to work on her second book, which will be published by Canongate in 2013.

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