• The Marches

  • A Borderland Journey Between England and Scotland
  • By: Rory Stewart
  • Narrated by: Rory Stewart
  • Length: 12 hrs and 43 mins
  • 4.3 out of 5 stars (62 ratings)

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The Marches

By: Rory Stewart
Narrated by: Rory Stewart
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Publisher's Summary

Ten years after the walk across Central Asia and Afghanistan that he memorialized in his best-selling The Places in Between, Rory Stewart set out on a new journey, traversing a thousand miles between England and Scotland.

Stewart was raised along the border of the two countries, the frontier taking on poignant significance in his understanding of what it means to be both Scottish and English, of his relationship with his father, who's lived on this land his whole life, and of his ties to the rich history and culture of the region. Now representing this borderland as a Member of Parliament, Stewart's march begins as his father turns 90, Scotland is about to vote on independence, and Britain may disappear forever. At times alone and at times joined by his father, Stewart melds the story of his journey with an intimate portrait of the changing social and political landscape of the region.

Stewart has written for the New York Times Magazine, Granta, and the London Review of Books.

©2016 Rory Stewart (P)2016 Recorded Books
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

What listeners say about The Marches

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    5 out of 5 stars

Uneven and unexpected, still worth it.

You should read this book if you've read Stewart's previous books and enjoyed them, otherwise it's probably skippable. It's extraordinarily unexpected. It's almost like it was supposed to be one of those books that rising politicians always tend to write, where they encounter Real People from True Country, whose innate and good knowings trump the elitist swots from London (or Washington, or where have you) who think they know best. Fortunately, Stewart has way too much going on upstairs and has seen way too much in his life to write a book exactly like that (although the second part of three comes pretty close.)

As Stewart walks along Hadrian's Wall and from England to Scotland, he bring along the eye of a man who has both seen and experienced empire, and who has negotiated borders more stark than any in the British Isles. What he sees as a result is not what he expected or hoped to find, not in the landscape or the people. He's aided by the presence of his elderly father, a man who is the same time a lovable old eccentric and an old pillar of the British Empire, a man who in his 90s still speaks several dialects of Chinese, was once known as the "Butcher of Penang" (possibly a joke?), and served as the quartermaster of the intelligence services ("Q", in James Bond terms.) The two Stewarts, as warriors, spies and diplomats of real calibre, barely stand out as they negotiate a landscape apparently used to their type. Here there is a statue to the man who conquered India, here is a farmer whose ancestor once captured the king of Afghanistan, here is a man who sings songs in the language of a nation nobody now remembers...

What does it all mean, about Great Britain today? Stewart has no idea and frankly admits as much, several times despairing his father that he has no idea what kind of book he's going to write. This gives it all a frustrating, meandering nature. But it's stuck with me, in a vaguely unsettling way. The suggestion in the end is that where we are from is at the same time somewhere and nowhere, and that this is no new phenomenon of modernity. The stories we tell and the artifacts we venerate are made as much of projection as of actual history, and that our own lives await the same inevitable, inescapable interpretation, and not always before we ourselves are gone from the scene. So not a typical politician book.

4 people found this helpful

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Excellent

l liked this book,very informative. So much history that I never knew. Great narration,I will listen again,andagin.

2 people found this helpful

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Not what I expected

I thought it would be more of author's relationship with his father on a walk. It was more a history of the border, good but not what I bought the book for.

1 person found this helpful

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Not what I expected

Rather than a narration of a trip along Hadrian's Wall with his father, this book is more of an exploration of Scottish identity and Rory Stewart's relationship with his father. That said, it makes it an even more interesting book.

Rory's father is a very interesting person with a history in the military during the second world war, continuing on to colonial work and the less spoken of secret service. From a very different era, it is enjoyable to hear of his anecdotes, advice, and conversations with his son.

The walk involves a number of trips on the borderland between Scotland and England initially understanding the Roman occupation and building of the wall, and later talking to people living in the area and their views on life and identity. What comes across is a greater understanding of how the people on both sides of the border are more alike than different and less traditional than they consider. In fact the whole idea of what is traditional is brought into question.

Bearing in mind that this was written around the time of the independence vote, it could be biased in order to have some influence on the vote. However, it highlights a theme with Rory Stewart in that he takes time to research the people in depth in order to gain a better understanding of a situation, rather than saying what he thinks. In this respect, I believe the book represents the people of the border land between the two countries, and an important read for anyone interested in the whole Scottish independence discussion.

1 person found this helpful

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A treasured companion

Ultimately, every bit as good as the author's The Places In Between. This book can be your treasured companion for weeks. I literally didn't want it to end. The author-narrator sings and also performs a series of voices, languages, and accents. This book leaves you with a list for life.

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Should've hired a professional!

I stuck with this one for about three hours, until I decided I could not listen to the author's voice for one more minute. So very upper class that it sounded like a bad parody - ugh! Material itself may have had some promise, though I wasn't interested in his, or his father's, philosophies on life. At Your Own Risk.

1 person found this helpful

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  • DG Wilmont
  • 09-30-17

A loving memoir for me.

A great listen, it was the retelling of the relationship with his father that I found most enjoyable about this audible book. I'm not sure if that was the purpose of the book but it rose above the story of modern life and the detailed history of the border lands between England and Scotland. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Ellijay
  • 08-11-18

An Easy Listen

A great story about Father Son relationship that held my attention from beginning to end.

3 people found this helpful

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  • John
  • 02-26-19

Absolutely wonderful!

Rory Stewart has great integrity in everything he does and clearly his father is his great influence. Fascinating book on history and geography of the Marches.

2 people found this helpful

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  • AF
  • 12-17-17

The Marches

Delightful journey alongside Hadrian’s Wall and meanderings back through the Borderland Marches. Plenty of fascinating facts, impressions and opinions. Anyone who enjoys delving into the history of the Scottish/English border, its languages, landscape will love this book. Relationship with his somewhat eccentric but highly intelligent father is obviously very close. Very touching section on his father’s end. It is a delight to hear the author read his book with such clarity and feeling.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 05-21-17

The chronicle of a father and son coming to a fuller understanding.

I loved this book.
It was a very articulate yet understated expression of a son's affection for and devotion to his delightful and singular father who loved him as devotedly, though their directions and attitudes to life were quite distinct.
Lots of very descriptive chapters about the borders between Scotland and England and what they signify today in a historical context. Also he is tangibly disappointed by the diminishing of historical reference points and their importance or lack of it in modern times for the people he met. His conclusions were far removed from what he had expected but honestly worked through and arrived at with a refusal to try and romanticise, and an acceptance of the motives of many "champions" of places or events he encountered as alien to those he had hoped for. These were often unrelated to historical truth and more to trying to make a profit or lure visitors into a managed experience far removed from what was real. Some of these modified expectations chimed with those he experienced in the planned father and son expeditions but the latter were illuminated by new insights and knowledge of his father's life and how he had lived it.
The story ends with a singular send off.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Peter Bates
  • 10-10-21

A love-letter to the memory of his Father

Ostensibly setting out as an account of English & Scottish nationhood, history and tradition, and their footprints in the modern State Of The Union, framed by descriptions of a series of walks through the Border landscapes and habitations, and conversations with an eclectic cast of locals, illustrated by musings on parallels between the Roman occupation of this land and Britain's own Empire and foreign incursions in the Far East, Iraq and Afghanistan, the connecting thread of Mr Stewart's conversations and relationship with his aging father moves ever more centre stage until it becomes clear that this book is in essence a touching love-letter to that bond and memory, concluding fittingly with an account of his last days and an affirmative nod to his life phiilosophy- to 'Get on with it!'

1 person found this helpful

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  • eric.rayner@btinternet.com
  • 09-23-21

Rory lost his way when he reached Scotland

I expected an interesting travelogue, some history and some commentary on modern life, and I got a decent serving of that, but the final chapters of the book deals with the death of Rory's father and his funeral. It gave the book a strange twist at the end which sat oddly for me.

I would have liked another few chapters of travel and commentary and the death of his father to be written in as a page-long postscript.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 05-08-20

A charming book read with poise and presense

It's difficult to surmise this book. Rory weaves gorgeous descriptions of landscape, insightful interviews, fascinating lesser known histories and an intimate study of his father, Brian Stewart. Read with delicate care, this book clearly means a lot to him and it was a pleasure to listen to. It gave me a great deal to reflect on.

1 person found this helpful

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  • pipando
  • 11-29-22

The Marches

An unexpected delight combining history of the land with the history of his father and their relationship. Enjoyed Rory narrating and would highly recommend.

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  • P Jane Mounsey
  • 10-06-22

The Marches

This book was amazing and truly wonderful - the observations, the characters on the walk, the knowledge, the history, and the relationship with his father - some of the conversations between them were so funny and the love between father and son apparent and special. I didn’t want it to end. I also listened to Rory Stewart’s book on Iraq which was brilliant and have read “the Places In Between “. I’m a total fan and hope there are more. A brilliant writer. Jane Mounsey