Book Review

Added on Monday 19 Mar 2012

Photo: following our fathers. Following Our Fathers: Two Journeys Among Mountains by Linda Cracknell.
(best foot books)

Following Our Fathers is the story of two walks undertaken by the author. The first is the story of the flight on foot across Norway to Sweden, taken by her friend Yuli?s father when he escaped from the Germans in 1944. Sven Somme was active in the resistance movement before his capture and kept journals and detailed maps during his trek.

Linda Cracknell, although the history is not hers, takes pleasure in re-enacting it. Throughout we share her pleasure as ?the story seems to come alive?, and she enjoys ?the sense of walking a storyline?

Cracknell, an award-winning short story writer is continually preoccupied with ?whispering ways to seek out stories? as they ?travelled through a landscape half-Scottish, half strange?, coming to the places Swen had stopped, meeting the people who, risking their own lives, had given him refuge.

The language is that of the outdoorswoman, taking pleasure in the landscape and in nature. A river ?meanders? she points out the vegetation: juniper, blackberry, young birch, and the ?pudgy buds of alpine anemones?.

However, throughout there?s a wistfulness, an envy of Swen?s family. She has no memory of her own father, who died young. ?My own valley seems strangely punctuated. I?m inclined to think of myself as a full stop.

Her walk is also brought to an abrupt stop. Fearing what the BBC calls a ?spoiler? I won?t recount the reasons here. Left ?hazed and estranged? she returns home with a ?sense of a living, resonant path way? and a desire to follow in the footsteps of her own father.

This proves to be a far more difficult journey. Knowing only that her father, Richard, had done some mountain climbing in his youth, Linda researches to find out where and when. Eventually, accompanied by two male friends who are experienced mountaineers, she sets out to climb The Finsteraarhorn in the Swiss Alps, a mountain her father had climbed in his twenties.

Here the experience is a much harder one. It ?wasn?t a walk of rhythm and thought but a strict regime of care and concentration? She doesn?t know whether she will be ?enchanted or terrorised?. And, although she is undertaking ?her own memorial walk? she is aware that her father was half her age when he climbed this peak. Again I won?t recount the outcome here, but this is a very different journey, it is also a proud and tender memorial.

Beautifully illustrated with the author?s own line-drawn maps and photographs, Following Our Fathers is a wonderfully descriptive and emotive pair of tales. This book and other titles from ?best foot books? are available from:

Comments are now closed on this page