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Footnotes: A Journey Round Britain in the Company of Great Writers
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Footnotes: A Journey Round Britain in the Company of Great Writers

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  42 ratings  ·  32 reviews
In each walk, a scene. In each journey, a story. To tread any well-travelled path is to step upon layers of history and to add to them. What was seen by yesterday's rambler? Who were they? What was their Britain?

Peter Fiennes follows in the footsteps of writers, spiritualists, economists, farmers, churchmen and artists, from the eleventh century to the twentieth.
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published September 5th 2019 by Oneworld Publications
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In Footnotes, the author Peter Fiennes takes a literary trip around Britain as he follows in the footsteps of some of his favourite writers looking at how the cities and landscapes have changed over time. The writers are quite a disparate bunch writing in different time periods, including the 12-13th century (Gerald of Wales), 17th-18th century (Celia Fiennes, James Boswell and Samuel Johnson), 19th century (Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins) and 20th century (Enid Blyton, Beryl Bainbridge).

Sep 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Footnotes seamlessly combines autobiographical information, nature writing and follows the paths of some of the finest writers to have ever lived; this original and potent mix had me captivated for the entirety of the book. I mean, this amalgamation of two of my favourite topics: the natural world and the history of Britain through the eyes of writers such as Enid Blyton and Charles Dickens - what could be better? I very much enjoyed the fact that it was entertaining as Fiennes's writing is full ...more
Oct 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Footnotes has been quite a journey around Britain following the travels of earlier journal writers, quite literally, sometimes on foot, other times by car or train as Fiennes’ forebears traveled by foot, horseback, carriage, and railway. To finish his journey, the author provides what seems a perfect summing up by taking the train route that Dickens’ body rode for his final trip to London for burial.

But much happens prior to that final ride. Throughout these travels, Fiennes provides insights
Jun 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
This is a wonderful read, combining a deep appreciation of landscape and cityscape with the lives and work of several, very different, authors. Peter Fiennes follows in the footsteps of writers and travellers as diverse as Samuel Johnson, Wilkie Collins, Charles Dickens, JB Priestley, Beryl Bainbridge and Enid Blyton on journeys around England, Wales and Scotland, reflecting on how places have changed and whether that change might be for the better or the worse. He includes some fascinating ...more
Fern Adams
Aug 12, 2019 rated it liked it
Footnotes follows writer Peter Fiennes on a trip round parts of England, Wales and Scotland as he follows in the steps of other authors. Drawing on a range of time frames and personalities this is quite a varied book including Enid Blyton, Charles Dickens, Boswell and Johnson as well as JB Priestley and Beryl Bainbridge. A mixture of travel writing, biographies, history and a look at the changes within Britain (with plenty of anecdotes thrown in for good measure) Fiennes successfully crams a lot ...more
Clare O'Beara
The author travels around Britain starting with Enid Blyton's possible locations for her stories, in the south of England. Moving through other authors, all historical and /or literary types, from a Welsh man of the twelfth and thirteenth century to Dickens and Somerville and Ross. He does look at the lie of the land, the kind of housing, how it appears today and would have looked to the authors. Fiennes shows himself capable of strong descriptive writing, so I'm disappointed that the book ...more
Oct 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Informative, interesting and entertaining, this travelogue by Peter Fiennes finds him travelling in the footsteps of writers through the ages who also travelled around Britain – from Enid Blyton to Samuel Johnson, Charles Dickens to Beryl Bainbridge. As he recreates their journeys, he gives some biographical information about them and quotes from their own impressions of Britain. He explores how places have changed, and how, in some cases they have remained very much the same, and his ...more
Sadie Slater
Sep 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Peter Fiennes's Footnotes is subtitled 'A Journey Round Britain in the Company of Great Writers'. Given the title, I had been expecting the journey to be on foot, but in fact although there is some walking (including a walk up Snowdon in a fog, which exactly mirrors my experience when we climbed Snowdon some years ago) the writers in whose footsteps Fiennes is following use a variety of modes of transport, particularly horseback and train, while Fiennes's journey is mainly by car. He starts in ...more
Sep 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
“Footnotes” brings together two things I love in a book—nature and travel writing and literary biography and criticism. Author Peter Fiennes comes up with the quirky idea of traveling around Britain following the paths various writers took over the years spanning Gerald de Barry’s’ journey through Wales on a Crusade recruiting trip in 1188 to Beryl Bainbridge’s 1980s recreation of J.B. Priestley’s trip around the north of England in the 1930s. Fiennes visits the southern coast on the trail of ...more
Nov 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This book is a simple idea very well executed. The author visits various parts of Britain which held some meaning to a writer, philosopher or poet. He talks about the places, the writers and their works. So there it is. And yet this book is so much more than that. There is humour, there is pathos. He is honest about the subjects (places and people) and it isn’t all gorgeous and glory. He touches on the difficulties of some writers and their works and he writes in great depth about a diverse ...more
Melanie Wood
Jun 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Peter Fiennes’s writing pops with keen observation as he journeys from Swanage to Skye and down again in the literary footsteps of a dozen British writers comparing the landscapes and attitudes they describe against today’s Britain.

Footnotes fuses literary biography with travel and nature-writing. From the rocky coves of Enid Blyton’s Dorset, Fiennes boards the train west with Wilkie Collins, contemplates the deep magic resonant in landscapes with Ithell Colquhoun, and clip-clops towards Wales
Linda Hill
Oct 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
One man’s personal journey in the footsteps of twelve writers.

I opened Footnotes with some trepidation as I feared I might be about to read a worthy, but rather dry and self-conscious tome that I felt I ‘ought’ to enjoy. Not a bit of it; I was completely wrong. Peter Fiennes has a lively and witty style that made me smile often and brought me both fun and entertainment as well as considerable detail and new information. I loved the quality of the prose. The variety of sentence length seemed
Elaine Aldred
Sep 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
In Footnotes, Peter Fiennes takes a tour of Britain, looking at it through the eyes of various authors and the times in which they lived. He considers how the country and its people have changed.

Footnotes is an absorbing read for a quiet afternoon. Fiennes is very good at conjuring up the atmosphere of place in any era. There are some excellent contemplations of Britain then and now through both historic authors’ eyes and documented experiences, as well as Fiennes observations. These take the
Jun 29, 2019 rated it did not like it
Hmmm – not what I had expected. I thought I'd find a book that surveyed Britain with the benefit of trails blazed by authors that had gone before. We'd find the nature of the places that were so important and formative to the authors that we'd forever find the two indelibly linked. But a hundred pages into this and we'd hardly travelled. The first chunk (I feel bound to use that word, rather than chapter, for it tells you a lot more) is about Enid Blyton, and dithers with travel reportage from ...more
Jul 06, 2019 rated it it was ok
I have very mixed feelings about this book. Once, it might have been described as "delightfully bitchy" or some such, but nowadays the kind of sniping the author Peter Fiennes engages in just seems petty; and it's inconsistent and silly, too. He repeatedly notes that one of his sources for the book, Celia Fiennes, was a bad speller; but she was born into a time when spelling, although becoming regularized, was still not standard, and certainly not so across all of England. He enjoys taking the ...more
Sep 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
I like travel and I love learning about authors so a book combining those two things sounded right up my street.
And Footnotes gets off to a cracking start with tales of Enid Blyton and her connection to Dorset.
While Enid’s work is controversial, her books were very much part of my childhood and I wanted to learn more about the woman behind the literary empire. Where better to do so than the place she went on holiday?
Written in a style that made me feel like I was travelling with a knowledgeable
Aug 12, 2019 rated it liked it
Upon reading the description for this book the idea and initially appealed to me, however it did not live up to expectations. Peter does a good job at combining a travel guide around Britain with literary references and previous travel notes from authors however, for me, the book was just that; a collection of references.

I would recommend this book to anyone whose favourite author is featured in the book or who would like to find out more about the authors that lived or travelled to where the
Sep 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
A really intersting and rambling book where the author seeks to recreate the journies and walking "holidays" of literary writers around the country.. the first section dealing with Enid Blyton is partcularly enjoyable, meandering through her childhood, the facade she maintained whilst dealing with troubled marriages, her astonshig work output and drive to succeed all tenuously connected by Fiennes to her love of her annual holiday pilgrimage. Very amusing in parts. The next section became less ...more
Rachel Hyland
Oct 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Informative and interesting -- two things that do not always go hand in hand -- this is the epitome of a quirky travel narrative, which I love, as well as a biography of several venerable English writers, which I also love.

The beginning section on Enid Blyton is a triumph, enthralling and satisfying to anyone who grew up with her works (and must now constantly examine their own attitudes as a result), while the fondness I developed for travel writers now long-dead, having travelled with them
Anett Kovacs
Jun 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars

Note: I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley.

Footnotes is a literary journey through Britain following the travels of great writers. From 12th century author Gerald de Barry to Dame Beryl Margaret Bainbrindge, Peter Fiennes embarks on a voyage through history, writing about the writers' lives interwoven with colourful descriptions of places then and now.

It is an immensely enjoyable read which sparks a lot of wanderlust. I especially loved the chapters about Scotland, and E.
Jason Muckley
"Footnotes" by Peter Fiennes was not what I expected. There was some interesting diatribes and stories about famous British authors and the trails and paths they walked as they wrote in diaries, journals, and other notebooks that were later recovered.

The stories were biographical from their notes left behind and the people who knew them as they journeyed throughout Great Britain. The stories were just not really that interesting to me. That was reason for my lower rating.

I received this as an
Kelly Hodgkins
Jul 28, 2019 rated it it was ok
My understanding, from the back cover, was this book would be a lyrical and factual exploration of the authors of Britain appreciative of both the beautiful landscape and the authors. I didn’t anticipate the cynical and derogatory tone, an attacking of a beloved author (Enid Blyton) and the swearing, 25% in, I resolved this book was not written for me. It is well written, and if the first 10% entertains you, you are well set to enjoy the rest.
Dec 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
A most unusual book that I enjoyed even more than anticipated. The author travels on foot about Great Britain following the former travels of a rogues gallery of bygone authors of various centuries. I listened to it. It was read is a rather rushed, breathless way that suited the tale perfectly. Near the ending is a wonderful imagined dinner party with 12 authors sitting together arguing, pontificating, commiserating - it is brilliant and hilarious.
Tom Stanger
Dec 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
As a short review:

Both funny and poignant with the pace of numerous train journeys Peter Fiennes takes us on a tour of Britain with some of Britain's best known (and not so best known) authors. A great read!

I'll be writing a full review in Issue 4 of The Pilgrim magazine, out in December 2019.
Aug 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was an interesting book. I enjoyed reading about the different authors and could picture the places and people through Peter fiennes's writing. He took us on a good journey through the United Kingdom to discover places and people in an enjoyable manner. It wasn't what I had expected but was still a very good book. Worth reading.
Jul 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A book that made me crave to be in the places it describes and discover them through the eyes of writers.
It was an engaging and interesting read, well written and lovely.
Highly recommended!
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.
A fun read that I quite enjoyed, as the author follows in the paths traveled earlier by a handful of well-known literary stars, witty and informative, but by no means exhaustive. It was entertaining to travel along with him, and read of the exploits and foibles of these UK authors.
Aug 19, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2019
A literary journey through Britain, following the travels of some of its great writers. Peter Fiennes mixes biography with travel and nature writing, and it's a pleasant cocktail! I particularly enjoyed Enid Blyton's Dorset.

With thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for an ARC.
Jun 30, 2019 rated it liked it
It’s a well written guide to where authors of the past travelled. As an American, it’s not authors that I’ve been exposed to but I did enjoy reading about the unique places the authors visited.
Aug 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
A charming journey through time and the British landscape as experienced by various historical persons of note. In Footnotes we follow the footsteps of nature lovers from the past and get a cheeky peak at their thoughts (from letters and published accounts) plus more intimate personal details that may not be so readily available. This book feels a bit like a biographical tell-all travelogue with a hardy dash of wit and sarcasm thrown in.

Mr. Fiennes braves all forms of weather and difficulty to
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Peter Fiennes is the author of To War with God, an account of his grandfather's service as a chaplain in the First World War. As publisher for Time Out, he published their city guides, as well as books about London's trees and Britain's countryside.