The Instant by Amy Liptrot review – an intimate Berlin memoir

The Scottish author’s follow-up to her Wainwright prize-winning The Outrun is more contemplative, with flashes of grit and humour

When Amy Liptrot moved to Berlin, she didn’t expect to spend so much time birdwatching. “I came for people, not birds,” she writes in her new memoir. But she buys a pair of secondhand binoculars and goes out in search of hooded crows, known as “hoodies” back in Scotland, and goshawks, numbers of which have recently increased across the city. For Liptrot, birdwatching is the ultimate antidote to scrolling on her phone, forcing her eyes to refocus and look into the distance.

The Instant is the author’s follow-up to her Wainwright prize-winning debut The Outrun (now being made into a feature film with Saoirse Ronan), and ostensibly tells of a year spent living in Germany, though this isn’t a straightforward travelogue. It is a slim, impressionistic, often melancholy work that, along with following her adventures in a new place, grapples with ideas of solitude, romance and a life lived simultaneously online and off. This book is not as substantial as its predecessor, though that is not a criticism. Where The Outrun chronicled her battles with addiction and her recovery on the islands of Orkney where she grew up, this feels like a more experimental project, a document of a liminal year in which her interior and exterior lives are keenly felt and recorded.

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