Take a journey into our ancient past. Explore a long-lost landscape and gradually discover the minds, beliefs and cultural practices of those souls who lived on these lands thousands of years before you.
Travelling the length and breadth of Britain, James Canton pursues his obsession with the physical traces of the ancient world: stone circles, flint arrowheads, sacred stones, gold, and a lost Roman road. He ponders the features of the natural world that occupied ancient minds: the night sky, shooting stars, the rising and setting sun. Wandering to the farthest reaches of the islands, he finds an undeciphered standing stone north of Aberdeen and follows the first footsteps on the edge of a long-lost Ice Age land in the North Sea.
As Canton walks the modern terrain, slowly understanding the ancient signs that lie within and beneath it, he weaves a gentle tale of discovery, showing how, beyond the superficial differences of lifestyle and culture, the ancient inhabitants of the British Isles were much closer to the present-day ones than we might imagine.
"Intensely alive to the landscape; its pasts, people and creatures." (Robert Macfarlane)
Praise for James Canton's Out of Essex:
"Some landscapes are silent, others as eager to communicate as the shades in Homer's underworld. But not everyone has the gift of hearing what they are saying. James Canton's involvement with Essex is long and deep, and in this book of walking, remembering, and reflecting, he picks up echoes from many writers who are connected to its villages, towns and surrounding countryside.... His pilgrimage to the past is full of surprises and always enjoyable, as he reinvigorates the familiar scene and recovers unfamiliar associations." (Marina Warner, chair of the Man Booker International Prize 2015)
"Canton...is a stalker of literary ghosts, following traces across the Essex countryside that might lead him to the writers who might have lived and worked among these landscapes." (Times Literary Supplement)
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Ups and Downs like the paths he walks
The range and breadth of how he writes about finds and facts, e.g. how it impacts him personally, the characters involved, the stories that go along with it all.
He has a very delicate approach which matches what in some parts is quite a whimsical take on the author's experiences.
Exploring and Experience
I really liked this book, but it seemed a bit up and down in terms of how it took my interest. Some bits were really impressive and most was very interesting, but a few bits sunk into wiffle waffle and lacked the 'grounding' -- pun intended! -- in terms of his take on his experiences which the majority of the book conveys.