Tuesday, 16 November 2010

A couple of thoughts on Jim Perrin's West

Jim Perrin's West: A Journey Through The Landscapes of Loss is part memoir and part travelogue as the climbing and landscape writer charts a journey of love and loss in the face of the deaths of his partner and son. Described as a psycho-geographical travel book on the nature of grief, Perrin explores everything from remote coastlines, forests, to the wild spaces of his beloved Wales as he attempts to understand the suicide of son, Will, and death of Jacquetta to cancer a few months later.

Throughout the book Perrin's language is rich, elegant and, as Robert Macfarlane put it, "lyrical in the proper sense of that word". West has been widely reviewed see here, here and here for a good selection.

A couple of thoughts. Despite the intense and often intimate language that thrills and challenges on almost every page it was a straightforward line that made me sit up. After exploring the coast north of Berwick-upon-Tweed, he comments "Climbers, I've long maintained, are of all groups of people among the least aware of their surroundings". It wasn't quite a Damascene moment but it did made me realise that in the urge to race up a mountain or get to the crag, I've sometimes been oblivious to the subtleties of the landscape.

Secondly, there is something incredibly satisfying about Perrin's endnotes. Whether it is a literary reference, information on a particular pub or recounting disarming a knife-wielding drunk on a train, they add another layer to the reading experience. Similarly, The Villain, his biography of Don Whillans, had copious notes which I enjoyed almost as much as the main narrative - although not all reviewers seemed to agree.


  1. I recently came across your review of 'West' by Jim Perrin and, having read the book, I felt I must comment.
    I met Jim perrin on several occasions as I am close to Jacquetta's (Jac's) family.
    Despite the critical approval of his writing the content of this book, as far as his relationship with Jac is concerned, is completely at odds with what I know to be the truth.
    For an insight into the true nature of the man please read Jac's sisters blog - http://jacssisters.wordpress.com
    They are putting the record straight.

  2. I also was acquainted with this man through one of his previous relationships with a family member of mine...as Jac's sisters say, he was, "manipulative, controlling, egotistical and violent" and obviously lives in a fantasy world...