A NetGalley book I fancied the look of when they emailed me about which I didn’t seem to feel the same as other people.

The blurb:

No running water, no car, no electricity or any of the things it powers: the internet, phone, washing machine, radio or light bulb. Just a wooden cabin, on a smallholding, by the edge of a stand of spruce.

In this honest and lyrical account of a remarkable life without modern technology, Mark Boyle, author of THE MONEYLESS MAN, explores the hard won joys of building a home with his bare hands, learning to make fire, collecting water from the stream, foraging and fishing.

What he finds is an elemental life, one governed by the rhythms of the sun and seasons, where life and death dance in a primal landscape of blood, wood, muck, water, and fire – much the same life we have lived for most of our time on earth. Revisiting it brings a deep insight into what it means to be human at a time when the boundaries between man and machine are blurring.”

Mark Boyle – “The Way Home”

(12 March 2019, NetGalley)

I’ve shared the blurb because it is entirely accurate,  however I think Boyle must be a “marmite” writer and I didn’t take to him myself, which did colour my reading of it. He decides to give up all technology and live on a smallholding in rural Ireland. I hadn’t realised he’d previously given up money, and written about that, but quickly realised he does go all in on things. I’m not sure what else this book could have been, as you couldn’t survive the modern urban world without tech, whereas you can just about live on a smallholding.

The stories of his current adventure are interspersed with the tale of how he came to this point and details of a visit he makes to the Blasket Islands, a place in Ireland that has moved from being a self-sufficient community to being a tourist location (and he really doesn’t like tourists or tourism, admonishing the reader in the introduction for having a propensity to want to visit the places they’ve read about – this put my back up, even though I understand his intention). This breaks up the hard labour and deer-skinning but there’s always the presence of his, reading between the lines, girlfriend Kirsty, caught between making nettle tea and doing all the plain cooking (he does the exciting bits) and wanting to live the authentic life she wants to have lived, running off with some ponies.

There is lots to value and interest here. The detail is fascinating, not least his agonising over where to draw the line: he eschews time (yet manages to know what day and time to go to the traditional music evenings in the pub) and contemplates making his own mushroom paper and ink for a feather pen, although we don’t get told if that happens. I did like the bits about the oddness of writing with a pencil not a computer. There are plenty of yucky descriptions of respectfully slaughtering fish and eating them raw and dealing with a road-kill deer, so no one looking for the blood and muck of it will be disappointed: there is also information on farming and foraging. No pet that is mentioned meets a sticky end and the musing on the nature of dogs is nicely done. He does also check his privilege, both of birth and of being able to choose to live in this way, but I did find him irritating, I’m afraid. No other reviewer seems to have done that so maybe I’m just struggling with my need for technology and envy of his way of life (he doesn’t have a toilet. So no).

Thank you to NetGalley and Oneworld Publications for allowing me to read this book in return for an honest review.