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Footnotes. A Journey Round Britain in the Company of Great Writers by Peter Fiennes. Book review

September 15, 2019

Book cover for Footnotes.

In Footnotes, Peter Fiennes takes a tour of Britain, looking at it through the eyes of various authors and the times in which they lived. He considers how the country and its people have changed.

Footnotes is an absorbing read for a quiet afternoon. Fiennes is very good at conjuring up the atmosphere of place in any era. There are some excellent contemplations of Britain then and now through both historic authors’ eyes and documented experiences, as well as Fiennes observations. These take the form of both serious considerations, but also very witty commentary, with the author switching from one to the other with admirable fluidity. So be warned, Footnotes, is not the type of book to read in a genteel tea room lest a spray of cake crumbs erupts from failed attempts to stifle a guffaw as Fiennes’s wit takes hold.

Fiennes endeared himself to me, because he was just an ordinary guy launching himself into the great outdoors with little more than a block of mint cake and a limited ability to read a map, and not an epic adventurer who made me feel like a couch potato. Even back in civilisation he succumbs to the weakness of the flesh as, feeling a little worse for wear from the alcoholic bout of the night before, Fiennes feels compelled to grapple with the large quantity of chocolate related products thrust in his direction in the Cadbury’s factory tour.

His observations on the authors came over as balanced. Enid Blyton being a particular case in point (her reputation recently having been given a really good pummelling), as Fiennes explained her more redeeming features.

Footnotes was an enjoyable sojourn around Britain from the comfort of my armchair and one that I will quite happily undertake again when I feel the melancholy of the winter nights closing in.

Footnotes was courtesy of Oneworld publications.


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