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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

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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.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • John S.
  • Seattle, WA United States
  • 08-13-17

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 of 1 people found this review 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.

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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.

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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.

1 of 3 people found this review helpful