Wainwright by Hunter Davies: a sort of book review

This is a bit of a different post for me. The walking – after getting off to a great start in the Lakes in January – has been on a bit of a hiatus – combo of no planned trips and a run of conferences at work. Various journeys did however allow me to catch up on my reading – specifically Hunter Davies’ biography of Wainwright. So this is – sort of – a book review.

It was rather daft I’d not read this before. I’ve read a lot of books about climbing hills or mountains but they’ve tended to be mountaineering epics where someone doesn’t come back with a full complement of digits. I have a feeling my dad suggested I read it when I first started hillwalking but for whatever reason I didn’t and when my parents had a clear out on moving from a large house into a small flat I ended up with their entire Wainwright collection (basically the pictorial stuff from the TV series) but the biography had mysteriously vanished. I finally acquired a copy at the tail end of my New Year trip to Ambleside.

Anyway onto the book review. I wasn’t sure quite what to expect – how much would be about hills and how much about other stuff. As it turned out there was a lot of both but all of it was interesting.

I had forgotten he was an accountant (that’s what I do for a day job). I’d expected a picture of a rather antisocial curmudgeon and there was a bit of that. But what comes across was a complex character; someone with a wicked sense of humour (which comes across in the little asides in the books); someone who was desperately unhappy in their first marriage (though obviously very happy in his second) and whose time in the hills was both a love affair and probably an escape too. Someone who didn’t really want to be famous and accepted it pretty grudgingly. Someone who didn’t compromise on very much; but then compromise wouldn’t have produced something as unique as the Guides were. Someone who was capable of poking fun at himself – as well as at everyone else. But ultimately someone who was happiest surrounded by mountains.

It’s a good book, and well worth a read if you haven’t. Preferably accompanied by a pint in a pub with a view to the hills rather than as I did on various trains!




4 thoughts on “Wainwright by Hunter Davies: a sort of book review

  1. I often wonder whether I should read it but know quite a bit of Wainwright’s history as there was a programme on the telly about it all (I felt very sorry for his first wife as she was pretty neglected really and didn’t do anything to deserve it), and I don’t like Hunter Davies much so not sure I’ll read it really.


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