“Underland” by Robert Macfarlane

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Thanks to Penguin Books UK and NetGalley for the Advance Review Copy in exchange for an honest review.

What a wonderful book!  Gorgeously written, evocative, enthralling, sumptuous… how many positive adjectives can I use to describe this? Quite simply, this is the kind of book I want to buy for everyone I know.
Essentially this book is about the “Underland” and our relationship with it, the underland being what is underneath our feet. There are multiple Geologists in my family, I don’t know why, maybe it’s a Highland thing, and I must confess to never being particularly enthralled when conversation moves onto talking about rocks and suchlike. This book is so much more than that however, it contains reflections on the intersections between humanity and nature, life and death, philosophy, archaeology, history, science, myth….How does it fit all that in? Well I dunno, but it manages to.

It almost felt like a travel book to the underlandwith some of the environments explored including underground bunkers and scientific facilities, fungi networks, catacombs, barrows, forgotten underground structures, caves and and burial sites, amongst others. I particularly enjoyed the explorations around burial sites and the Paris catacombs in particular. I had a great deal of respect for the author being ballsy enough to squeeze himself into these claustrophobic situations, and I enjoyed reading about the urban explorers and ‘cataphiles’ he came into contact with. It was fun to live vicariously through events I would never dream of countenancing myself (Mammoth Cave was enough for me, thanks). I also particularly enjoyed the links to both ancient and more recent history, and how that interweaves with our experiences and understandings of the underland. I wasn’t super in love with the fungi/wood wide web chapter but that’s just my own personal preference.

Overall, this book was what I’d call a 6 star book. They don’t come along very often but you should snap them up when they do.

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