The Marches: A Borderland Journey Between England and Scotland by Rory StewartI think sometimes interweaving seemingly disparate threads can work well in non-fiction, unfortunately in this book I think it muddied the waters. Rory Stewart once did a walk across Afghanistan, which you can read about in his book, The Places in Between, which got a lot of acclaim. Much to my chagrin, he continuously references this journey and book throughout The Marches. At times he seems to be trying to find connections between Afghanistan and the borderlands between historical Scotland and England, but failing, in my opinion. He also seems to have written this book not long after the death of his father, and underlying everything is a clear desire to somehow pay tribute to his father. So also entwined in this narrative are reflections on his fathers work in Asia. Too many ingredients, leading to very little clarity.
The only reason I actually read the entire thing is that this land is my land, as much as it is his land. A healthy quarter of my ancestry comes from the MacGregor lineage, a clan which lived in and/or bordered the land he is discussing, for centuries! Until the great migratory period between 1831 and 1931, where many people moved away (but not his family, except for working extensively overseas. This is when my Scottish ancestors came to the United States as well, to a very similar landscape.) So I found myself combing the text for more information on the history of the actual land, which is what I was hoping for from the books description. From a few conversations he references with his Dad, I think that what Rory Stewart was assuming he would find was not as extensive as to fill a book, and as padding he has put everything else in. I would have preferred a shorter book with more focus.
Thanks to the publisher for giving me an early review copy through NetGalley.
Walking Across Afghanistan - Rory Stewart
The Marches: A Borderland Journey Between England and Scotland
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I t sometimes seemed to his son that Brian Stewart, once the second most powerful figure in the British intelligence services, was protesting his Scottishness too much. There had always been an enthusiasm for country dancing. Now, white-haired and rather frail, he wore tartan trews every day and spread a tartan blanket on his bed; he had lurcher called Torquil; next to the whisky on his desk lay oatcakes and a Gaelic dictionary; he ate porridge every morning and haggis twice a week. Hail Caledonia! But also: Rule Britannia!
Life throws challenges at all people, but some people purposefully seek them out. Between and , Rory Stewart walked 6, miles from Turkey to Bangladesh. In , as Iraq burned, he headed for Baghdad to search for a job. Both books were as exceptional as the feats they described. Each expedition allows Stewart to survey a diverse landscape, examine national history and identity, assess the state of the union and spend valuable time with his parent.
The Marches book. Read 86 reviews from the world's largest community for readers. From a member of Parliament and best-selling author of The Places in Be.
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Thank you! There are few authors whose books are automatic purchases, whatever the subject, universal or arcane. He is now a Member of Parliament living in Cumbria, England, while his father, Brian, lives in the family home in Scotland. His greatest talent is in getting people to speak to him and actually listening to what they say, a skill on full display in his previous books about Afghanistan and Iraq. Stewart saw a similar talent in his father when they lived in Malaya, where Brian—a fascinating character in his own right—worked in the colonial offices; he often left his post to travel around and get to know the indigenous people.