The Outrun – Amy Liptrot

In a nutshell, this book is about Liptrot’s recovery from alcoholism, set briefly in London and then on Orkney, whilst describing the birds she worked with in her job at the RSPB. Don’t worry that summary wouldn’t have sold it to me either but the bookseller in Waterstones a few years ago did. She had bought this book for her best friend who had, apparently, loved it. Honestly, it doesn’t take much to get me to buy books.            

Although the premise is simple, there is a depth to this book. It is a love letter to Orkney and its surrounding islands and as such the writing is actually quite beautiful. There was a marked difference in the style of writing at the beginning when Amy is living in London and still drinking; the pace is quicker and more frantic than when she moves to Orkney, sober, trying to find peace and recovery in the islands and their wildlife. I would say, however, that the latter half of the book does have a lack of flow at times and is more a loose gathering of reminiscences and facts rather than an actual narrative. But, and it’s a big one, Liptrot completely captures the Island of Orkney, its inhabitants and amazing wildness so very well. I could see, feel and hear it. The sense of place in a book is very important to me and this book has it in abundance.

Liptrot’s honest and frank discussion of her addiction and recovery is refreshing and really helps us to understand what she is battling every single day. Although she has been accused of being too introspective and occasionally self centred, I think she had to be this way to recover. She does admit to her character flaws and I was glad that she didn’t try to blame others for her drinking.

This is a quietly well written book which I would recommend, even if you’re really not that keen on birds! 


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