Friday 5 July 2024

Review by Lee Wright of "Our Island Stories: Country Walks Through Colonial Britain" by Corinne Fowler

American philosopher John Dewey said, “Time and memory are true artists; they remould reality nearer to the heart's desire.”

The British countryside has long captured that heart's desire, with its poetic allure, rolling hills, meandering lanes, and quaint villages with their listed buildings, evoking a sense of tranquillity and wonder, and wealth. But in Our Island Stories: Country Walks through Colonial Britain, historian Corinne Fowler (joined by various companions) takes us back through time on ten fascinating walks through Britain’s rural landscape, and sets out to discover the unique colonial connections of the places through which she passes.  

From the Cotswolds to East Lancashire, Hampshire to the Inner Hebrides, to Dolgellau and Norfolk, Fowler is propelled by a personal desire to give us the facts in an era when our elected (and often unelected) politicians choose to remould reality, preferring fiction over fact. This book isn't afraid to tie a piece of string around the base of the sensitive rural tooth, and the other end to the colonial doorknob, then slam the door. History may be complicated, but it should not be reshaped. As the author says in the book's preface, “Knowledge is not something to be weaponized but to be shared.” 

Fowler's finely crafted book shows us why it is essential we explore imperialism. Each walk taken is accessible so others, if they so wish, can follow in the author's footsteps. Slavery was a vast system and the author's task is equally vast. As she continues to shine new light on Britain's past, some in Westminster and most of the right-wing press are fighting her all the way. Fowler encourages her readers to look at rural Britain differently. History has much to show us, and this book, and her walks, follow where the history leads. 

About the reviewer
Lee Wright has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Leicester and is currently working towards a PhD researching memoir and film. His fiction and poetry have been published with Fairlight Books, époque press and Burning House Press.

You can read more about Our Island Stories by Corinne Fowler on Creative Writing at Leicester here

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