I seem to be writing a series of blogs about books… here’s a very different book from what I’ve been thinking about over the last few days:
I was sorting out the pile of books under my bed and came across ‘The Moor: Lives, Landscape, Literature’ by William Atkins and I thought ‘I must read this again! Here is what I wrote about it the first time round:
Every so often, and quite rarely, you come across such a perfect book, you almost don’t want to read it because then you’ll finish it… but on the other hand, you know that you’ll be able to read and reread it.
The last book like that was like that was Oracle Night by Paul Auster; I’ve read other good books since then, books I’ve enjoyed, but I’m thinking of exceptional books, books I’d give an award to if I had an award to give. I have just started reading another book which I know I won’t be recycling to a charity shop or giving to anyone else.
It was reading group on Sunday, and for our August read we decided that instead of choosing one book which we would all read, we would each choose a travel book, read it and then share it with the rest of us. We raided the bookshop shelves and after a lot of chatting and looking at different titles we each bought a book, and some of us bought two… I chose a book written by William Atkins. I knew nothing about him, and had not seen the book reviewed anywhere. The book is ‘The Moor’ with an extra title, ‘Lives, Landscape, Literature’ and it chronicles William’s trips across various moors in England.
It was the title which drew me, and the fact that we lived on the edge of the moors in Lancashire, only a few miles from Saddleworth Moor in fact. Now, living in the south-west, it’s not that far down the motorway to both Exmoor and Bodmin Moor. The cover of the book is beautiful too, and I think it would have attracted me even without actually knowing moors. As the advert says, the book does exactly what it says on the tin, the author writes about the landscape, the people who lived and who now live in it, and the stories writers such as the Brontës, Thomas Hardy and R.D. Blackmore.
I started in the middle with Saddleworth Moor as it is the one I know best, and was immediately hooked. I knew some of the legends that he wrote about, and the characters he mentioned, but there is so much more and I think even someone who knows the area really well, not just superficially like I do, would love it for the detail, the lyrical writing, the gripping little tales of times past. I went then to the introduction, of William as a boy and his first acquaintance with moors. Now I have just read Bodmin and I’m up on Exmoor. I’m not hurrying, I’m reading it slowly, and enjoying every word.
While looking at the news, I came across a more recent mystery of Saddleworth Moor. A man was found dead on the moor, not far from the main road, and in a place where I’ve walked many times. he was lying down as if just resting, but was dead from strychnine poisoning which is very uncommon these days. he had no identification on him, and even now, no-one knows who he was.
Here is a link to his story, with some interesting pictures: