Book Review: Northern Soles (****)

I am proud to be a Ten Reviews or More reviewer on Net Galley

I was sent this e-book, free-of-charge (yay!) by NetGalley, in return for an honest review. So, here it is…

NORTHERN SOLES

by STEVE ANKERS

The Net Galley description reads thus: With a (very small) spring in his step and a song playing on his smartphone, Steve Ankers sets out on a 200-mile coast to coast walk from the Mersey to the Humber.

Travelling from one City of Culture to another takes him through snow, torrential rain and sweltering heat to a mighty gathering of brass bands, a collection of police truncheons, a ghost train, the Taj Mahal of swimming, and a liquorice festival. He encounters a Vimto sculpture, the country’s finest cat hotel, a lost town, and a justification for donkey stoning. He discovers where gravity was invented, where rugby league was first discovered, how wind turbines breed, and why Sylvia Pankhurst is still a hero in Addis Ababa. And he consumes more scouse, spam fritters, and potato patties than you can shake a black pudding at.

Best of all Steve gets to meet his heroes – the largely unsung volunteers and staff at the heart of our heritage and communities, and those who, in this centenary year for women’s suffrage, honour the legacy of those who fought for the vote and still campaign vigorously today on issues of gender inequality and injustice. It’s a fascinating journey, and a passionate and often funny one.

This is not the type of book I usually read – it’s more my husband’s cup of tea – but being a Scouser, I liked the idea of the author starting in my home city. He writes in an engaging tone, showing interest and affection for all the places and people that he visits. I learned things about Liverpool, and its environs, that I didn’t know and that surprised me; I had other facts that were familiar acknowledged and admired. It reminded me to be proud of my city. The premise of his walk was to compare Liverpool, European City of Culture in 2008, and Hull, UK City of Culture, in 2017, and to look at the legacy left behind.

Fireworks in Liverpool City Centre, launching the year as City of Culture

A light show in Hull

Continuing on his journey on foot from the west coast (New Brighton, across the water from Liverpool) and following canals and rivers cross country to Hull on the east coast, Steve Ankers visits places associated with famous people – the Pankhursts, Elizabeth Gaskell and others – and tells their stories well; he also visits various festivals, and muses on the effects of regional development.

It is written with gentle humour – there were none of the outright belly laughs that I sometimes get with Bill Bryson, for example – but equally, I can find Bryson a little cruel, or self aware in his humour, and I did not find this with Steve Ankers. There was a genuine feeling of appreciation for what he was doing, and seeing, and who he was interacting with.

As I said, this isn’t my usual genre, as I prefer fiction, but I was engaged and interested. I give this a solid 4 stars.

New Brighton lighthouse

Hull, Wilberforce Monument

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One thought on “Book Review: Northern Soles (****)

  1. I’ve grown to prefer engaging books of reality like this over fiction. The first leave me educated or inspired or entertained; the latter too often leave me reluctant to leave the vivid scenes in my mind and return to my own life.

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