Annabel Abbs’s Windswept: Walking the Paths of Trailblazing Women is a beautifully written meditation and memoir that reflects on that most fundamental way of connecting with the outdoors: the simple act of walking. In absorbing and transporting prose, Abbs follows in the footsteps of groundbreaking women, including Georgia O’Keeffe in the empty plains of Texas and New Mexico, Nan Shepherd in the mountains of Scotland, Gwen John following the French River Garonne, Daphne du Maurier following the River Rhône, and Simone de Beauvoir—who walked as much as twenty-five miles a day in a skirt and espadrilles—in the mountains and forests of France. These trailblazing women were reclaiming what had historically been considered male domains.
The stories of these incredible women and artists are laced together by the wilderness walking in Abbs’s own life, beginning with her poet father who raised her in the Welsh countryside as an “experiment,” according to the principles of Rousseau. Windswept is an inventive retrospective and an arresting look forward to the way walking brings about a kind of clarity of thought not found in any other activity, and how it has allowed women throughout history to reimagine their lives and break free from convention. As Abbs traces the paths of these exceptional women, she realizes that she, too, is walking away from, and towards, a very different future. Windswept crosses continents and centuries in an arresting and stirring reflection on the power of walking in nature.
PUBLISHED BY TWO ROADS
Just glorious!! I found this book to be inspiring, thought provoking, educational, fascinating and just wonderful!
The author uses her own life experiences, especially when she found herself in hospital unable to walk, to explore the art of walking and the fact that there was very few books around by women about walking and their adventures, when there are so many by men. With extensive research she uncovers some amazing characters – many of whom I had heard nothing about – and has brought their stories to life by challenging herself to walk the routes they did in the past, and this really just makes this book so immersive and inspiring.
The women she features are Frieda Lawrence, Gwen John, Clara Vyvyan, Nan Shepherd, Simone de Beauvoir, Georgia O’Keefe, but there is also reference to Daphne Du Maurier and Emma Gatewood.
All very different women but all sharing a deep passion for walking, exploring – and shockingly for women – walking by themselves!! The shame!! But in their adventures they enjoyed the freedom it gave them and allowed them to find their own minds, and the author shared these feelings as she uses each chapter to share her walk, alongside that of the woman she was walking in the footsteps of. There’s a look back in time to the lives of these amazing women, their trials and tribulations, the scandals, alongside her own experiences and thoughts on the changes over time as to the attitudes towards a variety of different topics.
It explores the benefits to your health of walking, the stories of the kindness of strangers met along the way, the pitfalls and reality of walking in the middle of nowhere by yourself, and the overwhelming sense of achievement and confidence these women had when they had finished a walk. And how eager they were to go on other adventures. Some weren’t afraid to go against convention, some lost their families over their actions, but most were just inspired by the solace they felt while walking, despite all of them having a real strong attachment to ‘home’ and realising just how little they needed in their lives.
I learnt so much about these women as the author relayed their stories, alongside her own walking experiences and how that time alone gave her time to think over her life choices. Reading about these women, inspired me to research a little more about them and their work and it’s been enlightening to learn more about these amazing women. The way the author connected with each woman also made this more of an experience as she wanted to feel what
It is one of those books that inspires, educates and just makes you want to walk!! To use your time wisely, and when you get the chance to grab that time for yourself and go out exploring, no matter how near or far!