Tuesday 13 February 2018
The Last Wilderness by Neil Ansell
Subtitled A Journey into Silence, this is a beautifully written account of one man's explorations of the Highlands of Scotland as he meditates on his increasing deafness (which he measures by the birds he can no longer hear sing) and the loss of species from our countryside. He writes about his preference for being in nature by himself and I can totally understand that love of solitude, however as it becomes clear that failing hearing is not his only health concern it starts to seem foolhardy of him to be out there by himself, not for him alone (that is after all his decision to make) but because he is single parent to two children.
Setting that concern aside I did really enjoy this book. Ansell's writing is beautiful without falling into the self conscious overly poetic style beloved of many of the more literary nature writers of the day. Here is his description of the call of the curlew:
'Once of twice, a curlew called its plangent, rising trill. For me, this is the most evocative of all bird calls. It has a visceral effect on me, like a punch to the solar plexus. Whenever I hear it I am immediately transported back to my childhood self, wandering the marshes alone.'
I love the way he weaves together his observations of the Scottish Highlands alongside similar experiences in other times or other places (though this does become slightly confusing on occasion, perhaps deliberately so).
The Last Wilderness by Neil Ansell published by Tinder Press (February 2018)