Review published on May 6, 2017.
I must immediately admit that this is a book I would have bought anyway if I hadn’t been sent a review copy. I am a big fan of the late nature writer Roger Deakin, and of his book, Waterlog, in which he recounts his wild swimming adventures in the 1990s. I was excited, therefore, to discover that journalist Joe Minihane had retraced Roger’s journey and recounted his experiences in this book.
Nature writing has been very popular over the last few years, with a recurrent theme of the writer finding resolution to their personal struggles through the natural world, for example, The Outrun by Amy Liptrot. This book follows the same narrative stream as Minihane tries to overcome his severe anxiety through wild swimming. We follow him as he teams up with various friends to tackle swims in public pools, murky canals, sparkling lakes and fierce waves. Interestingly, one of the friends who joins him is actually Amy Liptrot.
As a sufferer from anxiety myself, I was interested in the author’s struggle to recognise his problem and the different methods he uses to try and overcome it. I’d have liked a little more discussion of this.
I’m not sure whether being familiar with Roger Deakin’s original book was an advantage or not. On the one hand, I understood Joe Minihane’s desire to live up to Roger’s example and was keen to see how the different swimming venues had changed over the years. On the other hand, Minihane does not have the naturalist’s eye of his predecessor and a lot of the descriptions of wild life and wild places were a bit mundane.
I think anyone who has enjoyed the recent raft of ‘nature as therapy’ books would find this a good read, though possibly in tandem with reading the original Waterlog. This might actually be an interesting project for book groups.
Rebecca Kershaw 4/3
Floating: A Life Regained by Joe Minihane
Duckworth Overlook 9780715651803 hbk Apr 2017
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