Quibbles aside, Carter’s book succeeds because it is complicated, showing how his decades-long father–son struggle is inextricably linked to his own politics and sense of worth. It also sheds some fresh light on the core Labour supporters who voted to leave the EU. It has often been said since the referendum that working-class Britons were not voting in their interests – those manufacturing jobs might never come back and will probably be even less likely to if the UK is out of the single market.
Carter is the author of two successful travel books; the first inspired by a midlife crisis, the second a farewell bike ride around a Britain so inspiring he found it, ultimately, impossible to leave. Here, he is at ease traversing 330 miles across the heart of England in four weeks – every inch by foot – savouring everything from the salt marshes of the Mersey to the faded grandeur of our post-industrial cities. There are astute reflections on the borders of our accents; our fight-or-flight impulse; how the price of a pint of beer rises a penny a mile heading south, and on our “desire paths”, the illicit trails we carve into the landscape in defiance of ordained boundaries. His struggle to locate Pete – both internally and within the landscape – reveals a vulnerability that will resonate with many who have lost a parent they never really had.