“Into the underland we have long placed that which we fear and wish to lose, and that which we love and wish to save.”
As he has done with his previous works, such as The Old Ways and Landmarks, Robert Macfarlane takes us on an emotive and fascinating journey through the landscape — only this time, we’re traveling underground. Like our ancestors before us, we’re “making journeys into the darkness”, reaching deep into the Earth to better understand our world, ourselves, and our place within it. Blending history and myth, geology and environmentalism, reflections from his travels and psychology, Macfarlane gives us a book that is both rich and dark. We are enticed by landscapes both above and below ground whilst simultaneously struck by the poignancy and urgency of a planet in peril.
The book is separated into three parts — Seeing, Hiding, and Haunting. We descend into caverns and catacombs, seek out underground rivers and glaciers, and explore the interconnectedness of nature that goes far deeper than the topsoil of a land. We encounter humankind’s influence on the land beneath us: nuclear storage, mining, fossil fuels, pollution, and more. We get a sense that we, as a species, are leaving behind the worse kind of legacy in the strata of this land: death, destruction, and decay. This theme of legacy weaves in and out of the book as Macfarlane explores our ancestors and the ways they left their trace on the world, and connects with people who are deeply connected to the land today. It is all too easy to forget that our actions have consequences, and not all of those consequences are good ones. How we work to seek to interact with, and preserve, this beautiful planet for the future generations should be the work we do now, as we journey onward to become ancestors ourselves, and one day return to the arms of Mother Earth. Powerful, essential reading.
My rating: 5 out of 5
I received an e-ARC from the publisher, Hamish Hamilton, through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.