doubling back book coverReviewed by Nina Longfield

Doubling Back by Linda Cracknell is a series of stories following Cracknell’s travels through the British Isle, points in Europe, and Kenya. Cracknell’s stories slip easily through time. In her opening essay, Saunters, the reader accompanies Cracknell in the contemporary setting of Switzerland ambling through flowering gardens or the wooded slopes of the Aubonne valley then, at the next moment, we are stumbling along on Cracknell’s first solitary outing as a four-year old child exploring her new backyard in a Surrey suburb. The present and past are intrinsically linked together through a weaving of activity (walking) and place. There is always an air of discovery in Cracknell’s treks whether the walk is familiar or new to her.

Doubling Back is reflective and vibrant. Linda Cracknell has a keen ability of painting landscapes with her words. I can almost feel the warm red earth beneath my bare feet while reading Baring Our Soles, an enchanting tale of fading village life in Central Kenya, or lose my breath during Cracknell’s descent into the “cavernous depths” of Valle de Laguart in Stairway to Heaven. As one who admires the poetry of Thomas Hardy, Cracknell drew me into her story, The Opening Door, through Hardy’s words and his connection to Boscastle, Cornwall. This is a story of Cracknell’s past as well as Hardy’s past. Cracknell reflects on her visit to Boscastle at age eighteen then her return in 2008. She covers both a familiar fondness in reminiscence and universal despair of change within The Opening Door with seemingly simple thoughts such as a remembered meadow is “now a car park”.

Part memoir, part travelogue, descriptively delicious, Doubling Back by Linda Cracknell is a treat for the reader’s senses. Having read Linda Cracknell’s novel, Call of the Undertow, and liking it very much, I was excited for the chance to delve into her memoir, Doubling Back, and I was not disappointed. Not necessarily a quick read for escapism, Doubling Back is packed full of place, memory, and thought. The descriptions within Doubling Back brought to mind familiar paths Cracknell covered in Call of the Undertow. I feel I could follow Cracknell’s memoir as a personal guide on a walking holiday.

Doubling Back is well written, poignant, and took me onto the trails that Cracknell traversed from Scotland to Kenya, Wales to Switzerland, and other points crossed in the real and imagined. This collection of walking memories is a book I shall come back to in order to revisit Cracknell’s treks and meditations. Perhaps, as Linda Cracknell used other writer’s books for inspiration on her walks, I shall use Doubling Back as inspiration for my own rambles.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Nina Longfield is a writer living in Oregon’s fertile wine country. When she is not reading or writing in her spare time, Nina enjoys hiking in the hills surrounding her cabin.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Linda Cracknell. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.