The Marches: Border walks with my father (Paperback)
  • The Marches: Border walks with my father (Paperback)

The Marches: Border walks with my father (Paperback)

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Paperback 368 Pages
Published: 21/09/2017
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Waterstones Non Fiction Book of the Month for October 2017

Longlisted for The Orwell Prize 2017

His father Brian taught Rory Stewart how to walk, and walked with him on journeys from Iran to Malaysia. Now they have chosen to do their final walk together along 'the Marches' - the frontier that divides their two countries, Scotland and England.

Brian, a ninety-year-old former colonial official and intelligence officer, arrives in Newcastle from Scotland dressed in tartan and carrying a draft of his new book You Know More Chinese Than You Think. Rory comes from his home in the Lake District, carrying a Punjabi fighting stick which he used when walking across Afghanistan. On their six-hundred-mile, thirty-day journey - with Rory on foot, and his father 'ambushing' him by car - the pair relive Scottish dances, reflect on Burmese honey-bears, and on the loss of human presence in the British landscape. 

On mountain ridges and in housing estates they uncover a forgotten country crushed between England and Scotland: the Middleland. They cross upland valleys which once held forgotten peoples and languages - still preserved in sixth-century lullabies and sixteenth-century ballads.

The surreal tragedy of Hadrian's Wall forces them to re-evaluate their own experiences in the Iraq and Vietnam wars. The wild places of the uplands reveal abandoned monasteries, border castles, secret military test sites and newly created wetlands. They discover unsettling modern lives, lodged in an ancient land. 

Their odyssey develops into a history of nationhood, an anatomy of the landscape, a chronicle of contemporary Britain and an exuberant encounter between a father and a son. And as the journey deepens, and the end approaches, Brian and Rory fight to match, step by step, modern voices, nationalisms and contemporary settlements to the natural beauty of the Marches, and a fierce absorption in tradition in their own unconventional lives.

Publisher: Vintage Publishing
ISBN: 9780099581895
Number of pages: 368
Weight: 293 g
Dimensions: 198 x 129 x 22 mm


'This is travel writing at its best.' - Katherine Norbury, The Observer

'[A] bewitching book... The entrancing bond between Stewart and his father brings the book alive.' - Tristram Hunt, The Sunday Times

'Stewart is the nearest person I have identified in real life to Rudyard Kipling's Kim, the all-seeing, all-knowing man-child of Empire... The heart of the book is about love... He is observant, gently mocking and he writes beautifully.' - The Times

'I thought at first Rory's book was about the French political party, but blow me it is all about our native heath, plus his dad, and is one of the most original books we have had in 33 years of the prize' - Hunter Davies

'Engaging, intelligent, and ultimately moving.' - Stuart Kelly, The Scotsman

'Suggests an open-mindedness in Stewart, a tolerance and flexibility that could make him an exceptional politician while it also continues to define him as a writer.' - Andrew Motion, The New York Review of Books

'Engaging, intelligent and ultimately some ways, Rory Stewart resembles a Robert MacFarlane who has chosen geopolitics over metaphysics.' - Scotland on Sunday

'He is a gift to literature.' - Sarah Sands, Evening Standard

'[Stewart] has a roving, enquiring mind, which makes him on the page...most agreeable company... This roving, discursive book is a delight to read.' - Allan Massie, Literary Review

'The Marches is a memoir full of depth and beguiling humour... His prose is captivating and I hugely admired his dedication in getting to know closely the landscape and people he serves in Parliament.' - Charlotte Runice, Prospect

'[A] substantial and very impressive book... [a] profoundly moving portrait of Stewart's father.' - Philip Marsden, Spectator

'As a collective portrait of both father and homeland, The Marches is a deeply moving, honest and loving portrait, even if Britain and Brian are seldom what they seem.' - Barnaby Rogerson, Country Life

'The book is held together by Mr Stewart's writing, with his short chapters moving skilfully from history to personal encounter.' - Andrew Lownie, The Wall Street Journal

'Stewart's descriptions are moving... This writer refreshes the parts that other writers cannot reach: he has the stamina and interest to investigate the hidden `glamour' behind regions and peoples with unpromising veneers.' - Mary Killen, Lady

'The delight of it lies in his encounters with the specific rather than in ruminations about the general. He has an alert eye for the awkward detail - the things that don't quite fit with the tone of a scene. It makes him an enjoyable and persuasive writer.' - Ian Jack, The Guardian

'[An] elegantly written account.' - Tom Chessyhre, The Times

'Like father, like son, for both come across as hugely talented, hugely driven misfits.' - The National

'The Marches marks him [Stewart] out not only as a writer but as a political force rooted in geographies so different to London as to shed new light on politics itself... [A] serious politician, social critic, and practical ethnographer at work. As such The Marches is a book for walkers, for those who love the Borders, and for fathers seeking inspiration in their family responsibilities... If this is the polymath as politician, then we need more of them.' - Frances Davis, Conservative Home

'This is so much more than the story of their journey - it's a superbly written, endlessly fascinating book encompassing history, geology, landscape, family memories, wars experienced and lives well lived.' - Choice Magazine

'One of the most unexpected and enjoyable reads of 2016... The book fizzes erudition and is delightfully leavened by the companionship of his aged and doughty father.' - The Guardian

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“The Marches”

I have only read a small portion of The Marches, but I find it a little on the dull side and cannot relate to a lot of the contents because I am not Scottish.

Paperback edition
Helpful? Upvote 65


This book is advertised as a travel book. This would have been true if there was less history included. About 75% is just that, a history journey. I wanted to read more about the actual walks themselves which is why I... More

Paperback edition
Helpful? Upvote 47

“A lovely read”

I loved this book.
It's a wonderful mixture of history,geography and topography,laced through with anecdotes,some sentimental,many humerous.
I felt I learned alot about The Borders and it's people and now... More

Paperback edition
Helpful? Upvote 2

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