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06Feb

Time on Rock by Anna Fleming review – mountaineering as outdoor ballet

This hymn to climbing and the natural world is beautifully written but may be too technical for casual readers

Mountains have been firing the imaginations of writers and adventurers for centuries, and Anna Fleming’s debut is the latest addition to a long tradition of literary reflections that includes Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain and Robert Macfarlane’s Mountains of the Mind, both of which have clearly influenced Fleming’s writing.

There has been a vogue in recent years for memoirs by women seeking to immerse themselves in the natural world as a means of overcoming some deep trauma: divorce, addiction, the death of a parent. Fleming’s book has no such heroine’s journey at its heart; she just loves climbing. At one point she mentions the end of a relationship driving her to a more intense focus on her craft, but skates quickly across the surface of her feelings: “Some people turn to drink, I relaxed on the rock.”

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