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Skybound. A Journey in Flight by Rebecca Loncraine. Book review

April 7, 2018

Book cover of Skybound

If Robert McFarlane and W G Sebald had gone up together in a glider, Skybound. A Journey in Flight, a lyrical recounting of glider flights and fascinating asides on flying and life, would have been the result. It is a glorious recounting of observing the landscape of the Black Mountains from the air, and anecdotes associated with flight, as well as a celebration of what it is to appreciate living, when its opposite looms in the not so distant future.

Rebecca Loncraine began writing this book as she was recovering from cancer. Life had been less than fair to her, particularly as her condition meant she was too ill to write and had to return home to recover and begin all over again. She did this by facing her fear of flying and going up in a glider, until it was a passion which became a way of life.

So, Skybound is not a book complaining about misfortune, but about reinventing yourself, with the author’s condition being discussed but more as a way of meditation and coming to terms with what would eventually be a fatal condition. Gliding is very different to powered flying, particularly as you are so much more in touch with the caprices of the air currents and wind.

The author describes in detail how she used flight to reach into herself, linking the world she observed below and the sensation of flying to explore her inner landscape in a way she never had before. In doing that it also acts as a meditation for the reader to consider themselves and how they fit in with and interact with their world.

Loncraine describes gliding like moving through an ocean, where the land is the sea bed and the sky as something that has volume. The means that those of us moored to the ground need to consider it in three dimensions, rather than a flat plane onto which things like hills and buildings intrude. Considering the world this way creates a whole new perspective in terms of writing.

I walk a great deal locally, in an area which might not be considered as dramatic as Loncraine’s Black Mountains. But I have found myself thinking about the scenery I pass through and how it might look from different perspectives, as well as how I might describe it in a way that is as engaging as Loncraine’s writing. That is a big ask for any writer because Rebecca Loncraine has big shoes to fill. Her descriptions are so exquisite and lacking in purple prose that, had she lived, I have no doubt her work would have been much sought after. However, my sense of being able to write about my surroundings has been taken to a whole new level through reading Skybound.

Skybound is definitely a bed time book and one that will take unlimited re-readings. Yes, you might run the risk of starting it, and (as I did) finding you should have gone to sleep some hours before. But although the reading of it is joyous and stimulating, it is at the same time capable of calming and soothing the most restless of minds, ensuring peaceful rest when you finally heed the call of slumber. Skybound is a book to carry around with you all the time and draw on when you are feeling low and in need of a lift that takes you completely out of yourself.

Skybound. A Journey in Flight was courtesy of Pan Macmillan via NetGalley.

  1. I really like the sound of this one. Excellent review!

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