10,869 book reviews and counting...

Native: Life in a Vanishing Land Reviews

Native: Life in a Vanishing Land by Patrick Laurie

Native: Life in a Vanishing Landscape

Patrick Laurie

4.00 out of 5

3 reviews

Imprint: Birlinn Ltd
Publisher: Birlinn General
Publication date: 2 Apr 2020
ISBN: 9781780276205

Desperate to connect with his native Galloway, Patrick Laurie plunges into work on his family farm in the hills of southwest Scotland. Investing in the oldest and most traditional breeds of Galloway cattle, the Riggit Galloway, he begins to discover how cows once shaped people, places and nature in this remote and half-hidden place.

4 stars out of 5
Julian Glover
28 May 2020

"It is a sensational tale in the softest sense of the word, in that it is full of feeling"

Laurie has the deep love of a place that’s at the heart of explaining it to others. There’s a certain sort of landscape writing that delights in antique mysticism: as if remoteness and spirituality are the same thing. This book is far better than that. It confronts the loss of open hills to sterile conifer plantations, which make nobody local rich but have obliterated a way of life and the nesting grounds of curlew, a bird which merits the obsession Laurie has for it. I have seen curlew this spring, in England: but each year there are fewer of them in Britain and Laurie dreads the day they are gone from his land forever. 


4 stars out of 5
23 Apr 2020

"A farmer with a poet’s eye is a rare thing indeed"

There’s nothing easy about the farming life, which for Laurie means ‘weeks of pale solitude in the middle distance’. He is driven to tears by the sheer hardness of the land. But it consoles him, too, with its timeless indifference: ‘The old, dumb hills stand above me; they’ve seen all this and worse.’

A farmer with a poet’s eye is a rare thing indeed, and this is a rare breed of a book: an elegy to a vanishing landscape but one not without hope, and to be greatly treasured.

4 stars out of 5
22 Apr 2020

"so remarkable, and so profoundly enjoyable to read"

Yet what makes Laurie’s book so remarkable, and so profoundly enjoyable to read, is that for him, many of these decisions seem almost  instinctive. He follows his heart, in choosing his patch of land, the breed of cattle he loves, and the presence of curlews as a measure of the health of the landscape; and often, it seems as though the Galloway land itself, on which his family has lived for centuries, is breathing and speaking through him, sometimes driving his prose to extraordinary heights and depths of rich, sweet lyricism. At some moments it’s hard not to think of Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s heroine Chris Guthrie in Sunset Song; and his extraordinary power to conjure up in words her passionate love for the land of the Mearns, and its old farming ways.