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Shadowlands: A Journey Through Lost Britain Hardcover – 17 Mar. 2022
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THE TIMES TOP 10 BESTSELLER
SHORTLISTED FOR THE WAINWRIGHT PRIZE
Drowned. Buried by sand. Decimated by plague. Plunged off a cliff.
This is the forgotten history of Britain's lost cities, ghost towns and vanished villages: our shadowlands.
'A beautiful book, truly original . . . It is a marvellous achievement.'
IAN MORTIMER, author of The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England
'Well researched, beautifully written and packed with interesting detail.'
'An exquisitely written, moving and elegiac exploration.'
'Consistently interesting . . . Green's passion and historical vision bursts from the page, summoning up the past in surround sound and sensual prose.'
CAL FLYN, THE TIMES(author of Islands of Abandonment)
Historian Matthew Green travels across Britain to tell the forgotten history of our lost cities, ghost towns and vanished villages. Revealing the extraordinary stories of how these places met their fate - and exploring how they have left their mark on our landscape and our imagination - Shadowlands is a deeply evocative and dazzlingly original account of Britain's past.
'An eloquent tour of lost communities.'
PD SMITH, GUARDIAN
'A haunting, lyrical tour around the lost places of Britain.'
CHARLOTTE HIGGINS, author of Under Another Sky
'A miraculous work of resurrection, stinging in a perpetual present'.
IAIN SINCLAIR, author of The Gold Machine
'Beautifully written.' SUNDAY TIMES
'Startling.' FINANCIAL TIMES
'Splendid.' THE HERALD
'Compelling.' HISTORY TODAY
'Excellent.' THE SPECTATOR
'Fascinating.' DAILY MAIL
'Accomplished.' CAUGHT BY THE RIVER
A beautiful book, truly original. Shadowlands is poetic history written with great literary flair, inquisitiveness, soul-searching and humanity. The part-travelogue, part-history approach conjures up a wonderful series of worlds lost, time passing and sympathy with the dead. It is a marvellous achievement. -- Ian Mortimer ― author of THE TIME TRAVELLER'S GUIDE TO MEDIEVAL ENGLAND
An exquisitely written, moving, and elegiac exploration of the dead ends and lost causes of history - a book to savour and cherish. -- Suzannah Lipscomb
Here is that most mysterious of all journeys, into towns, coasts, settlements that no longer exist, but which - miraculously - are brought back to challenge us, to question our carelessness and neglect. A haunting work of resurrection, stinging in a perpetual present. Shamanic consciousness for the borderlands of memory. -- Iain Sinclair ― author of THE GOLD MACHINE
A haunting, lyrical tour around the lost places of Britain, from the Welsh village of Capel Celyn, flooded to bring water to Liverpool, to the once bustling town of Dunwich, now perished beneath the North Sea.-- Charlotte Higgins
Superb. A beautifully written atlas of Ghost Britain, a summoning of places lost to memory, and a deft excavation of the void underlying myths of national identity. -- William Atkins ― author of EXILES
Consistently interesting . . . thought-provoking . . . Green's passion and historical vision bursts from the page, summoning up the past in surround sound and sensual prose. -- Cal Flyn ― The Times
Absolutely beautiful. -- Cerys Matthews
Immersive . . . This is a beautifully written, intelligent book, and it is offered as a warning as well as a memorial. -- James McConnachie ― Sunday Times
Fascinating . . . Shadowlands amounts to a sobering reminder of earthly transience . . . Green recounts all this at a measured, engaging clip . . .Shadowlands is a well-researched, highly readable history whose deepest import may be premonitory. -- Nat Segnit ― Times Literary Supplement
In the current climate of anxiety about the future and its possible effects on our familiar habitats, what could be more appropriate than this energetic study of lost places in Britain . . . [Shadowlands] encompasses the totality of human existence . . . [Green's] knowledge and enthusiasm are obvious. -- Gillian Tindall ― Literary Review
An eloquent tour of lost communities . . . [Green] disinters their rich history and reimagines the lives of those who walked their streets . . . By doing so, he makes tangible the tragedy of their loss and the threat we all face from the climate crisis on these storm-tossed islands . . . As Green's book so eloquently shows, people are drawn to these places because they are poignant reminders of the transitory nature of our own much-loved homes and communities. -- PD Smith ― Guardian (Book of the Day)
Startling . . . Green's outstanding achievement in Shadowlands is an extraordinary chapter about land that has been far more recently lost - to requisition . . . Often playful in tone, Shadowlands nonetheless has a serious purpose. In reminding us of the loss of once-thriving communities such as Dunwich and Winchelsea, Green also offers an urgent reminder of what may lie ahead as a result of climate change and rising sea levels. -- Miranda Seymour ― Financial Times
Gripping . . . Shadowlands is both meticulously researched and vividly imagined. The author has a novelist's gift for bringing the past alive . . . it is a thought-provoking and satisfying exploration of vanished places and the enduring forces that put them to the sword . . . it feels strangely prescient . . . splendid. -- Fiona Rintoul ― The Herald
Entertaining . . . While Green's ability to craft a compelling narrative from archive research is impressive, Shadowlands is at its best when the author details his own first-hand experiences visiting each site . . . Green explores the past while actively interrogating the present. With this book he breathes life into what has been lost. -- Robert Greer ― History Today
Accomplished . . . a detailed, flowing volume . . . The language is especially deft. Green is exemplary in weaving history, character and place together. Historical figures are particularly well sketched . . . a rewarding but humbling book. -- Adam Scovell ― Caught by the River
A poetic history . . . As romantic as it is relevant. Green articulates both qualities in evocative prose that shifts between lyrical and drily humorous. His enthusiasm is infectious . . . Shadowlands is a fascinating journey through place and time . . . an elegiac resurrection of our past. -- Madeline Feeny ― Daily Mail (Online)
[Green] does an excellent job of placing these locations in a broader context, incorporating geography, economics and urban planning . . . he brings this material to life with tales of pirates and poets, soldiers and kings, as well as testimonies from the helpless inhabitants of vanishing homes . . . the book shows that even those places which have vanished can still live on in the memory, and that nowhere completely disappears as long as we keep telling its story. -- Guy Stagg ― The Spectator
Intriguing . . . Green is highlighting something very important, namely a recognition of our own mortality. -- Mark Mason ― Daily Mail (Book of the Week)
This is an outstanding book, bursting with fascinating information. It's unobtrusively poignant and gently philosophical, with thoughtful insights into the ways in which some places are still part of the warp and weft of Britain even though no one lives in them. And even then the book is timely. -- Jake Kerridge ― Mirror
- Publisher : Faber & Faber; Main edition (17 Mar. 2022)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 368 pages
- ISBN-10 : 057133802X
- ISBN-13 : 978-0571338023
- Dimensions : 15.3 x 2.6 x 23.4 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: 7,215 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer reviews:
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Top reviews from United Kingdom
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It is packed with fascinating facts of historical interest about the eight lost places while also relating the human story behind the reasons of the downfall.
The author has a gift of making each place come alive and it is almost possible to share in the emotions of the lost inhabitants.
The lost places include towns literally blown off cliffs, evacuated islands, Neolithic settlements, and a beautiful valley submerged in order to provide water for a large nearby industrial town, to mention a few.
There are exquisitely described passages detailing life before disaster and tranquility after in some cases.
The author draws on personal experiences of loss in his own life to mirror the fragility of that which we all take for granted and imagine to be permanent.
I loved reading this book and thoroughly recommend it.
It would be good if the book could tie its stories to actual world locations. Maps locating the sites under discussion would really make this a much better book. These are geographical locations, and we need to know where they are to really make it come to life.
Also, there should be a lot more photographs. The author talks about "setting off" with his camera but there are very few photographs in the book and what photographs are presented are horrible little monochrome (I love monochrome but presented well) images within the body text of the book. It would be really good to have some monochrome/colour plates.
So close to perfection! But, despite its imperfections, I would highly recommend this to anybody who enjoys reading non-fiction works! But I'd also like to understand that Dunwich map better.
On the positive aspects of the book; I enjoyed the variety of places and time periods discussed, also the haunting and ephemeral quality of the ghost towns/cities vividly brought to life.
However, if you are an animal lover (as I and another reviewer have noted) there are some very graphic descriptions of animal death and mistreatment…most of which I felt were gratuitous and unnecessary. Events happen but sometimes it is kinder to allude to rather than brutally depict. This would, personally for me, be much appreciated.
At his best the author is an engaging writer who sweeps the reader off on a voyage of discovery, but he can also go off on poetic tangents that I found baffling. This is not the book for you if you just want facts and description…many a time the author delves in to the mindset and emotions of the people he describes and I found this annoying.
Overall, I did like this book and would encourage people to try it, I just didn’t find the actual experience of reading it completely enjoyable.
Personally, I liked the literary style of the book; elements of narration and speculative imaginings that give historic accounts space to breathe and come to life. There's a sense of gore and folk horror, infusing the book with a distinctly gothic atmosphere, the feeling of being watched amongst the ruins by the carrion eaters. The tinge of melancholy is mirrored in the author's own journey as his travels to the places he explores in the book become more-than-research trip, a kind of lonely pilgrimage.
Ultimately though, Shadowlands seems hopeful and perhaps reassuring, depending on your own view of the future. Either we can attend to our present concerns armed with our knowledge of the past, or we can, at the very least, be comforted by that peculiar sensation that accompanies our contemplation of the deep past; that all things must go through a process of change and decay, yet people, animals and even places will endure despite the many challenges we face.