07/12/2016 by Carl Reynolds
My mother reads more fiction than I do these days. She got the taste for stories after getting into a pretentious book club and realising that her enthusiasm was inverse to the snobbery she felt due to being, as she put it, “common”. So she left the group, but determined to read what she damn well pleased anyway. To the point. I was visiting recently – my father being in one of his increasingly frequent states of decrepitude- and noticed that my mother had left a copy ofThe Mountain Shadow by Gregory David Roberts; he who wrote the massive bestseller Shantaram. I asked her if she’d read it. She replied that, having read the first, she was sure that she’d be disappointed by the second, so I could read it and she’d pick it up in a year or two, once the concentrated juice of Shantaram had been digested, reflected on and passed into some niche in her memory.
But before all of that, I’d noticed The Outrun on top of her ‘to read’ pile and asked her if she’d read it yet. I was keen to, as it mentioned sea swimming…and I am a lapsed obsessive. She had! And said it was good. So on trains to Glasgow and back from the Borders, I delved into a world of young London recklessness and alcoholism; a retreat back to Orkney and the revelations of sobriety and recovery. The swimming takes a small chapter, and Liptrot’s insights and thoughts on sea swimming are no more revealing than what any sea swimmer already knows; so it is the description of her understanding the rest of the natural world which is, literally, wonderful.
It’s also true to say that it made me reflect on friends who both acknowledge, and refuse to acknowledge, their own alcoholism or other compulsive behaviour; my own habits and delusions, and; deepened my appreciation of that which hangs onto being wild around me.
Worth a read.