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Monday 19 September 2016

Review: Amy Liptrot, The Outrun

This is a lovely book written by a thirty year old woman who has returned to her native Orkney to recover having written off the best part of ten years in London – most of the time spent in becoming an alcoholic and staying that way. The book has a natural honesty, though I would avoid phrases like “searingly honest” since that conventional trope tends to make the honesty a smaller thing than it is.

A large part of the book’s interest lies in the way Amy Liptrot uses her habitat in Orkney – the sea, the rocks, the birds, the wind – as a thing to think with about her predicament. Occasionally, she seems to be trying too hard at the metaphor or at creating what I suppose T S Eliot might have called the “Objective Correlative” of her feelings. But most of the time it does not feel forced and most of the time it is disciplined – the book does not wander off at tangents but sticks to the twin themes of alcoholism and the exploration and inventorying of the natural world to which she has removed herself.

This discipline also helps the book to come across as an act of reparation. She is repairing herself in writing it, making good wasted time by doing something with her life, and also making some kind of gift to other people including those she has alienated along the alcoholic way. That surely is one reason way the reader ends up wanting to wish her well.

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