Penguin, £8.99, 260pp£8.54 from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030
Pub Walks in Underhill Country, By Nat Segnit
Boyd Tonkin is Senior Writer and a columnist at The Independent. An award-winning journalist, he was formerly Literary Editor at The Independent, and before that Social Policy Editor and then Books Editor at the New Statesman magazine. He has broadcast extensively for BBC arts and current affairs programmes and has judged the Booker Prize, the Whitbread biography award, the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the David Cohen Prize. In 2001, he re-founded the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize for literature in translation, and serves on its judging panel every year.
Friday 24 February 2012
Narrated by a nerdy know-all rambler, this clever and comic first novel takes the form of 15 walks, in places from the hero's Herefordshire home to the Himalayan foothills and the icy wastes of Antarctica.
Pedantic Pooter-ish cuckold he may be, but Graham Underhill also does duty as a finely-tuned satirical vehicle. Like a 4x4 driver let loose in a wildflower meadow, Segnit cuts a swathe through the solemnity of British nature writing.
Into Graham's oddly eloquent notes on the rocks, flowers and fables of his stamping-grounds intrudes the strange tale of a second marriage to a volcanic Bengali beauty. As it blooms on terrain between The Archers and Nabokov, this debut reveals a talent worth tracking, wherever it strides next.
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