The Outrun is an account of Amy Liptrot’s descent into alcoholism, having left her native Orkney for the bright lights of London, and her gradual recovery, first in London, then in Orkney.
It’s an incredibly brave book. At times, I cringed at Liptrot’s honesty, as she described the gradual degeneration of her social drinking into alcoholic abandon. Retrospective confessional, pulling no punches. Scary stuff too, for those of us who still enjoy what we like to think of as a social drink.
In some ways, The Outrun reminded me of Helen Macdonald's H is for Hawk, and Richard Mabey's Nature Cure, both of which describe overcoming depression by re-engaging with the natural world. In Liptrot’s case, the re-engagement was with Orkney. But The Outrun is also very different from Macdonald’s and Mabey’s books. It’s surprisingly positive throughout. Liptrot realises she’s become totally messed-up, and knows she has to do something about it.
Although quite a bit of the book is set on the remote, wind-swept Orkney Islands, The Outrun is very much a twenty-first-century memoir. Modern technology features prominently in Liptrot’s life—even on far-flung Papa Westray. It was good for this ageing tech-head to read just how positive a force devices such as mobile phones can be for people who were brought up with such technology, and who take it almost for granted.
Postscript and disclaimer: Since I wrote the above review, Amy Liptrot has moved to the same town as me. We have met several times, and I count her as a personal friend. I have also re-read The Outrun, and was even more impressed with it the second time round. It’s a fantastic book.
“…wonderfully droll, witty and entertaining… At their best Carter’s moorland walks and his meandering intellectual talk are part of a single, deeply coherent enterprise: a restless inquiry into the meaning of place and the nature of self.”
—Mark Cocker, author and naturalist
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