Book review – At the Very End of the Road by Phillip Edwards

I must apologise to the author and publisher of this book for carrying it around with me for months and not settling down to read it properly. I’m not sure why. It was partly that the cover didn’t engage me. It was partly that I’d never heard of the author. It was partly that I hadn’t seen anyone talking about it and so I didn’t feel that I was missing out on anything. It was partly that the end of the road sounded a bit sad. But I was wholly wrong. This is a superb read. I penalised myself by not getting to it sooner.

I quite often write in reviews that I like opinionated books, and I do, but this is the most glorious of unopinionated books. Here we have observations of nature without any baggage of environmental doom or campaigning zeal. It’s also very much not about the author, it’s about the place and wildlife at the very end of a road somewhere in the west of England.  The author is very clear that ‘this book is in part an experiment. It attempts to translate tight visual observation of intimate details of wildlife and landscape from this tiny area of western England into sensuous literary pictures through lyrical imaginative language.’. That’s quite an ambition, and to my mind, he succeeds brilliantly.

The chapters move through the year, from September to August, and aside from that cycle there is no narrative to the book – no story to follow. You are there with the author, in the place, in the moment.

This approach leads to an adjective- and adverb-rich book and sentences that are often long. In the very early pages (2 and 3), where the author sets the scene, there is a 93-word sentence to which I have returned many times because it makes me envious, it captures things so well, and the passage recalls the monologue at the end of Bladerunner.

This is an exceptional book which deserves to be read widely because it will give great pleasure to many.  It is the last entry into my shortlist for Book of the Year for 2022 which you will be able to read on Sunday morning. And this book also features in Stepen Moss’s annual review of nature books which will appear here on my blog tomorrow – Saturday morning.

The cover? It’s a bit dreary, I think, and the book is joyous, but it put me off reading this book so I’ll give it a low 6/10. But I feel I ought to give myself the same score.

At the Very End of the Road by Phillip Edwards is published by Whittles.


1 Reply to “Book review – At the Very End of the Road by Phillip Edwards”

  1. An author once told me that the cover design can “make or break” a book.

    Mark’s observation seems to underline this.

    I think the cover of this title is subtle, tasteful and reflective but gloomy.

    I wonder how it was chosen.

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