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One woman's journey of reclamation through natural landscapes as she contemplates identity and womanhood, nature, place and belonging. Anita Sethi was on a journey through Northern England in Summer 2019 when she became the victim of a racially motivated hate crime. The crime was a vicious attack on her right to exist in a place on account of her race. After the event Anita One woman's journey of reclamation through natural landscapes as she contemplates identity and womanhood, nature, place and belonging. Anita Sethi was on a journey through Northern England in Summer 2019 when she became the victim of a racially motivated hate crime. The crime was a vicious attack on her right to exist in a place on account of her race. After the event Anita experienced panic attacks and anxiety. A crushing sense of claustrophobia made her long for wide open spaces, to breathe deeply in the great outdoors. She was intent on not letting her experience stop her from traveling freely and without fear. Between the route from Liverpool to Newcastle lays the Pennines, known as the backbone of Britain. That backbone runs through the north and also strongly connects north with south, east with west--it's a place of borderlands and limestone, of rivers and scars, of fells and forces. The Pennines called to Anita with a magnetic force; although a racist had told her to leave, she felt drawn to further explore the area she regards as her home, to immerse herself deeply in place. Anita's journey through the natural landscapes of the North is one of reclamation, a way of saying that this is her land too and she belongs in the UK as a brown woman, as much as a white man does. We're living in an era of increased hostility in which more people of color around the world are being told to go back; strong statements of belonging are needed more than ever. Anita's journey gives her the perspective to reflect upon the important issues encompassed in her experience of abuse including speaking out, gaslighting, trauma, kindness, and notions of strength. Her journey transforms what began as an ugly experience of hate into one offering hope and finding beauty after brutality. Anita transforms her personal experience into one of universal resonance, offering a call to action, to keep walking onwards, forging a path through and beyond pain. Every footstep taken is an act of persistence. Every word written against the rising tide of hate speech, such as this book, is an act of resistance.


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One woman's journey of reclamation through natural landscapes as she contemplates identity and womanhood, nature, place and belonging. Anita Sethi was on a journey through Northern England in Summer 2019 when she became the victim of a racially motivated hate crime. The crime was a vicious attack on her right to exist in a place on account of her race. After the event Anita One woman's journey of reclamation through natural landscapes as she contemplates identity and womanhood, nature, place and belonging. Anita Sethi was on a journey through Northern England in Summer 2019 when she became the victim of a racially motivated hate crime. The crime was a vicious attack on her right to exist in a place on account of her race. After the event Anita experienced panic attacks and anxiety. A crushing sense of claustrophobia made her long for wide open spaces, to breathe deeply in the great outdoors. She was intent on not letting her experience stop her from traveling freely and without fear. Between the route from Liverpool to Newcastle lays the Pennines, known as the backbone of Britain. That backbone runs through the north and also strongly connects north with south, east with west--it's a place of borderlands and limestone, of rivers and scars, of fells and forces. The Pennines called to Anita with a magnetic force; although a racist had told her to leave, she felt drawn to further explore the area she regards as her home, to immerse herself deeply in place. Anita's journey through the natural landscapes of the North is one of reclamation, a way of saying that this is her land too and she belongs in the UK as a brown woman, as much as a white man does. We're living in an era of increased hostility in which more people of color around the world are being told to go back; strong statements of belonging are needed more than ever. Anita's journey gives her the perspective to reflect upon the important issues encompassed in her experience of abuse including speaking out, gaslighting, trauma, kindness, and notions of strength. Her journey transforms what began as an ugly experience of hate into one offering hope and finding beauty after brutality. Anita transforms her personal experience into one of universal resonance, offering a call to action, to keep walking onwards, forging a path through and beyond pain. Every footstep taken is an act of persistence. Every word written against the rising tide of hate speech, such as this book, is an act of resistance.

30 review for I Belong Here: A Journey Along the Backbone of Britain

  1. 4 out of 5

    Fiona

    Anita Sethi was travelling on a train when a fellow passenger who was playing music was asked to turn down the volume by the conductor. The passenger ignored the request, increasing the volume instead. As she could feel a migraine coming on, Anita asked him again to turn down the volume. His response this time was to direct a torrent of racist abuse at her for which, in due course, he was sentenced for having committed a racially motivated hate crime. Anita was severely traumatised by the events Anita Sethi was travelling on a train when a fellow passenger who was playing music was asked to turn down the volume by the conductor. The passenger ignored the request, increasing the volume instead. As she could feel a migraine coming on, Anita asked him again to turn down the volume. His response this time was to direct a torrent of racist abuse at her for which, in due course, he was sentenced for having committed a racially motivated hate crime. Anita was severely traumatised by the events of that day. She was shown a lot of kindness by some of her fellow passengers and by the railway staff but others just turned away. I cannot imagine what it is like to be abused because of the colour of your skin, to feel self conscious about your skin colour, or to be on the receiving end of racism. I realise now, I’ve never given it enough thought. I was bullied at school for a while and have been on the receiving end of the usual rubbish women have to contend with but I’m certain that isn't a meaningful comparison. Anita Sethi’s honesty in talking about this issue has heightened my awareness of how stressful and frightening it is to be attacked, verbally and physically, because of your skin colour; for people constantly asking you where you’re from when the answer is here. Her revelations have given me a lot to think about. I believe I can say, hand on heart, that I have never discriminated against someone because of their race, religion or skin colour, but is that enough? Would I stand up to the ned on the train? As part of her recovery programme, Anita decides to walk in the Pennines, mainly on her own. Starting in Gargrave, she walks to Malham and on to Settle and beyond. As she passes through small villages, she wonders what the locals think of this brown woman walking past their homes. She tells us that BAME people are not seen in rural locations as much as they should be, that they don’t have the same level or comfort of access that white people do. That is why she is particularly self conscious of her skin colour there. On a later trip, she walks along Hadrian’s Wall. Whilst walking, she muses on the power of nature, the dangers the environment is facing across the globe, about the sense of belonging to a place, about the roots of words, their original meanings, their meanings now and their personal meanings to her. While the earlier part of the book is really powerful, and throughout there are interesting facts to be learned, I found that it became quite repetitive and also quite disjointed. Anita’s rambling* through the countryside was accompanied by rambling thoughts and, for me, too many overworked analogies. I particularly enjoyed the etymological passages but I grew weary even of them as the book went on. On balance, however, I’m glad I read it due to the many very important issues Sethi raises and I have a lot of respect for what is a very poignant and timely book. 3.5 stars. *To ramble: 1. To walk for pleasure in the countryside. 2. To talk or write at length in a confused or inconsequential way. (OED) With thanks to NetGalley and Bloomsbury Publishing Plc for a review copy.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Michaela

    A description of Anita Sethi´s walk along the Pennines in the North of England after having suffered under a racially motivated hate crime on a train, thus trying to recover from her PSD and anxiety by interacting with nature. I can imagine (or not) that it must have been awful to suffer this crime with its impact on her life, so I understand that the author wanted to write something about her experience and dealing with it. But... The rather small parts of this book about her walk are combined wi A description of Anita Sethi´s walk along the Pennines in the North of England after having suffered under a racially motivated hate crime on a train, thus trying to recover from her PSD and anxiety by interacting with nature. I can imagine (or not) that it must have been awful to suffer this crime with its impact on her life, so I understand that the author wanted to write something about her experience and dealing with it. But... The rather small parts of this book about her walk are combined with thoughts about her experience on the train, general racism, colonialism, but also psychotherapy by water and other natural phenomena, preservation of nature etc. etc. All these themes get a bit too much in this description, and are further augmented by explanations of certain words, plants, body parts, history, which everyone could easily have looked up. Good intention, but not very well written and overloaded with these signs of "knowledge". Though she as a Brit has studied history she doesn´t even know when the year of the three Kings was. I also thought that she was badly prepared for a such a long walk over days and weeks, f.e. concerning her shoes. Those are only small parts, but they add to my disappointment with this book. And editor/co-writer would perhaps have helped. Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for an ebook ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lou

    I Belong Here is a rich and evocative piece of nature writing in which Sethi explores identity, nature, place and belonging as well as the link between mother nature and a horrifying hate crime she was subjected to. During a trip through Northern England Anita Sethi became the victim of a race-hate crime. The crime was a vicious attack on her right to exist in a place on account of her race. After the attack, Anita experienced panic attacks and anxiety. A crushing sense of claustrophobia made he I Belong Here is a rich and evocative piece of nature writing in which Sethi explores identity, nature, place and belonging as well as the link between mother nature and a horrifying hate crime she was subjected to. During a trip through Northern England Anita Sethi became the victim of a race-hate crime. The crime was a vicious attack on her right to exist in a place on account of her race. After the attack, Anita experienced panic attacks and anxiety. A crushing sense of claustrophobia made her long for wide open spaces, to breathe deeply in the great outdoors. She was intent on not letting her experience stop her travelling freely and without fear. In her new book, I Belong Here: a Journey Along the Backbone of Britain, the first of her nature writing trilogy, Anita transforms her personal experience into one of universal resonance. By offering a call to action, to keep walking onwards, forging a path through and beyond pain, every footstep taken is an act of persistence. Every word written is an act of resistance. Anita's journey through the natural landscapes of the North is one of reclamation, a way of saying that this is her land too and she belongs in the UK as a brown woman, as much as a white man does. Her journey transforms what began as an ugly experience of hate into one offering hope and finding beauty after brutality. A fascinating, insightful and powerful exploration of how nature has the power to ground and to heal, and Sethi illustrates that even despite the despicable actions of others, solace can be sought and found. Highly recommended especially to those suffering from any kind of trauma. I am already eagerly anticipating the sequel.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Fern Adams

    ‘I Belong Here’ is an interesting look at race, nature and belonging. Anita Sethi was racially abused on a train and made to feel like an outsider. Following this incident she started to reflect on a sense of belonging and in particular belonging to a landscape. Consequently she decided to walk along the Pennine Way to address this and look at the idea of belonging as she walked. This book explores how things are linked and intertwined and all can effect each other. I really enjoyed reading this ‘I Belong Here’ is an interesting look at race, nature and belonging. Anita Sethi was racially abused on a train and made to feel like an outsider. Following this incident she started to reflect on a sense of belonging and in particular belonging to a landscape. Consequently she decided to walk along the Pennine Way to address this and look at the idea of belonging as she walked. This book explores how things are linked and intertwined and all can effect each other. I really enjoyed reading this. Sethi takes a really fascinating and unique approach by using nature to explore the topics of race, racism and belonging. Her writing style is wonderfully descriptive and she is able to show the reader what a place looked like and also her own feelings really well through the words. I loved her incorporation of etymology throughout as well, tracing back word origins. The nature writing was also compelling, I loved reading about the landscape and the people she met along the way. It felt a very multilayered book and definitely one I will pick up again. The only element stopping me giving it a 5 star review is it did feel at times there was a lot of repetition that could have benefited from a bit of editing. A really thought provoking book! Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kelly Knight

    DNF I tried, I really did. I got to a point where I was fed up of the waffle and what felt like a stream of consciousness. She does raise some very important points about our society and I feel sad at what she has experienced but this book has no structure, it’s too repetitive and the analogies between parts of her walk and her experience became tiresome. Why all the definitions? This is not a book about her journey through the Pennines at all. I would have liked to hear more of her journey and l DNF I tried, I really did. I got to a point where I was fed up of the waffle and what felt like a stream of consciousness. She does raise some very important points about our society and I feel sad at what she has experienced but this book has no structure, it’s too repetitive and the analogies between parts of her walk and her experience became tiresome. Why all the definitions? This is not a book about her journey through the Pennines at all. I would have liked to hear more of her journey and less about the ramblings of the current state of affairs.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Marla

    What a vital, resonant and important book. I'm a woman of colour in the UK and don't think I've ever related to a book so much - I felt utterly swept up in this journey as the author walks through her home country searching for a sense of belonging. Like the author, I've often felt like an outsider in this country and at odds and have experienced much racism - I've often felt alienated by books too which haven't reflected my experience. This book was like a best friend to me in a time I needed it What a vital, resonant and important book. I'm a woman of colour in the UK and don't think I've ever related to a book so much - I felt utterly swept up in this journey as the author walks through her home country searching for a sense of belonging. Like the author, I've often felt like an outsider in this country and at odds and have experienced much racism - I've often felt alienated by books too which haven't reflected my experience. This book was like a best friend to me in a time I needed it most, an isolating pandemic. I was cheering out loud when the author wrote about how we need to reclaim histories and I learnt so much along the way as well. I Belong Here made me cry on a number of occasions and also laugh too, and it's rare to have that combination so well. This is a beautifully written and inspiring book that should be read carefully, re-read and returned to and I would urge everyone to read it.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Amna Waqar

    I was disappointed with this book. As a person of colour; with a similar cultural background and same hometown as the author - I was expecting so much more. Anita Sethi was racially abused on a train; it is after this horrific verbal and mental abuse that Sethi finds solace and answers to her sense of belonging by walking the Pennines. The author's writing style, or rather lack of it, was a complete let down. Had I wanted to read details about the skin's epidermis and melanin or read several dict I was disappointed with this book. As a person of colour; with a similar cultural background and same hometown as the author - I was expecting so much more. Anita Sethi was racially abused on a train; it is after this horrific verbal and mental abuse that Sethi finds solace and answers to her sense of belonging by walking the Pennines. The author's writing style, or rather lack of it, was a complete let down. Had I wanted to read details about the skin's epidermis and melanin or read several dictionary definitions of certain words such as 'scar' and 'backbone', I would have picked up an encyclopedia or dictionary instead. Was the author trying to achieve a word count target by throwing in such unnecessary detail? Her train of thought was also off putting- there was a lot of rambling and also a lack of cohesiveness at times. NetGalley provided me with this book in exchange for an honest review.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sharon

    I started off really enjoying this book, the account of the racial hate crime against Anita was truly horrifying and her description of how the railway staff and the police dealt with it was well written. However, I did not enjoy the parts of the book that talked about meanings of words i.e the meaning of 'to bear' or the parts that described what we as humans witness. I skipped over these parts as I did not feel they added depth to the story, I tried really hard to get back into the story but I I started off really enjoying this book, the account of the racial hate crime against Anita was truly horrifying and her description of how the railway staff and the police dealt with it was well written. However, I did not enjoy the parts of the book that talked about meanings of words i.e the meaning of 'to bear' or the parts that described what we as humans witness. I skipped over these parts as I did not feel they added depth to the story, I tried really hard to get back into the story but I had lost the plot and lost the feel of the story, I quickly gave up trying to enjoy this book.

  9. 4 out of 5

    TKP

    Not one for me unfortunately. I kept waiting for there to be something I liked about this book and there just wasn’t. It was just boring and mired in way too much detail that wasn’t needed.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    DNF As an ardent advocate for social justice, equality and human rights, and someone with a passion for hiking, this book would seem to have been written for me. Quality writing though is a prerequisite and that is where this book fell short. Thanks to NetGalley for the e-copy.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Chantal Lyons

    'I Belong Here' is quite a different book to the those it'll probably share shelf-space with in bookshops. Perhaps it is closest to 'The Salt Path' (which the author references), in exploring the restorative power of walking through nature after a life-altering experience. Yet it devotes less word count to the walking journey than I expected, which frustrated me a little, although that is because so much else is woven into the narrative - Anita Sethi's experience during and after the racial atta 'I Belong Here' is quite a different book to the those it'll probably share shelf-space with in bookshops. Perhaps it is closest to 'The Salt Path' (which the author references), in exploring the restorative power of walking through nature after a life-altering experience. Yet it devotes less word count to the walking journey than I expected, which frustrated me a little, although that is because so much else is woven into the narrative - Anita Sethi's experience during and after the racial attack on her; her childhood experiences of racism; reflections on the human body; histories of black and brown people in the UK; histories of walking; geology; and the global environmental crisis. Some of these aspects worked, particularly those about race, although some held less interest for me; I found my attention wandering during the passages describing parts of the human body and they felt a little self-indulgent/unnecessary. This is not the book for you if you are looking for a simple start-to-end recounting of a walk (like Cheryl Strayed's 'Wild'). But it is tender and thoughtful. It turns out to be something of a love letter to the northern British landscape, and the people living there - I found myself constantly braced for Sethi to encounter racist attitudes and micro-aggressions, but in fact, there was only one instance where someone made her feel less than welcome with a "where are you from?" question. Everyone else she met on her multi-stage journey was kind, open, and generous. It makes me want to go hiking in the North right now! One more thing I enjoyed about this book - Sethi was completely honest about her patchy ability to name flora and fauna (something I share). Many times, she sees a beautiful plant, or hears a bird's cry, and acknowledges she doesn't know what it is, though the experience still moves her. It's quite refreshing after having read so much nature-writing that prides itself on littering paragraphs with as many species names as possible, and the book feels all the more accessible for it. (With thanks to Bloomsbury and NetGalley for a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review)

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ruth

    With thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for an advance review copy. I am an immigrant and I now live in the Peak District, prime walking country, and I thought the concept of this book sounded fascinating. The author, victim of a shocking racist crime in spite of having been born and bred in Manchester, tells the tale of how she set out to reclaim her sense of self and belonging by walking the Pennine Way. The book is structured around sections named for parts of the body, with a correlation With thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for an advance review copy. I am an immigrant and I now live in the Peak District, prime walking country, and I thought the concept of this book sounded fascinating. The author, victim of a shocking racist crime in spite of having been born and bred in Manchester, tells the tale of how she set out to reclaim her sense of self and belonging by walking the Pennine Way. The book is structured around sections named for parts of the body, with a correlation made with the Pennines as the backbone of England, and an emphasis on the awakening of the senses in nature that restore our sense of belonging in our world. I was expecting the book to be mainly an account of being in nature, of the restorative power of rebuilding the relationship with the landscape that many of us have lost in our busy lives, and of rediscovering a sense that we are a part of nature and thus have a place on earth. And it sort of is that, I suppose. But it failed to grip me, and I’m afraid I gave up about halfway in. At the root of my problem with it, I think, is the fact that Anita Sethi is a journalist, and her writing ability does not stretch to a convincingly written longer book. As a ‘brown woman’ in England, she has been subjected to macro and micro aggressions her whole life, to the extent of feeling physically silenced for many years. Unfortunately, her authorial voice fails to do justice to the enormous racial disparities in our society, and her musings feel trite and laboured. So, for example, the grass she walks over is the earth’s green skin, prompting the thought that in nature it is easy to forget her brown skin. Walking across a bridge prompts thoughts about - you guessed it - building bridges across cultural divides. She eats a full English breakfast and considers that her identity as fully English is questioned. And so on, most repetitively and predictably. I am by no means negating the truth of what she says, but the way she makes her points sounds preachy, stilted and cliched. There are also slightly random info dumps which only have a tenuous relationship to the narrative and interrupt the flow. Her technique of taking a feature of the landscape and extrapolating an analogy with social phenomena, with a bit of research she’s carried out thrown in, rapidly becomes laboured and repetitive. This book’s heart is undoubtedly in the right place, but it’s about powerful feelings and societal wrongs, and needs a powerful voice to make an impact, and Anita Sethi’s is sadly not that voice.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Katheryn Thompson

    I've been looking forward to this book for a while, ever since I heard about its premise. After suffering a racially-motivated hate crime, Anita Sethi resolved to make a journey across the Pennines, the 'backbone of Britain', as an act of healing and reclamation. I think this is a fantastic idea, and a great concept for a book. I Belong Here isn't simply a chronological account of Sethi's journey. The basic premise of the book stands, as Sethi outlines the different stages in her journey, and sha I've been looking forward to this book for a while, ever since I heard about its premise. After suffering a racially-motivated hate crime, Anita Sethi resolved to make a journey across the Pennines, the 'backbone of Britain', as an act of healing and reclamation. I think this is a fantastic idea, and a great concept for a book. I Belong Here isn't simply a chronological account of Sethi's journey. The basic premise of the book stands, as Sethi outlines the different stages in her journey, and shares precious moments with us, but there is also an overarching story of Sethi's emotional journey. The book's sections, chapters, and even paragraphs flow beautifully, but they don't simply follow the linear progression of Sethi's physical journey. I loved the author's digressions, as she makes eloquent and impassioned arguments about the future of our world; the way we treat each other, and our planet. There is so much to treasure in this book, and I love how much of her thoughts Sethi shares with the reader. I only gave this one three stars instead of four (three stars for 'I liked it' as opposed to four stars for 'I really liked it'), because I would have preferred a stronger structure. I found my mind wandering a little, as Sethi sometimes drifted between ideas, or seemed to repeat herself. There are so many great ideas in this book, but I would have preferred them to be expressed in a more structured format. But that is purely personal preference. I am so glad that Anita Sethi made something so beautiful and inspiring out of her trauma, and I would definitely encourage you to give I Belong Here a read.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Bob Hughes

    I love writing about nature journeys, and I love political writing about identity, race and belonging, and this book is a fantastic combination of the two. Starting with a racist attack on a train and the death of a close friend, Sethi details how this formed part of her decision to follow the Wainwright trail through the Pennines to Hadrian's Wall. What follows is a beautiful, intriguing and luscious journey through nature, as Sethi reflects on how the natural world and the environment interact w I love writing about nature journeys, and I love political writing about identity, race and belonging, and this book is a fantastic combination of the two. Starting with a racist attack on a train and the death of a close friend, Sethi details how this formed part of her decision to follow the Wainwright trail through the Pennines to Hadrian's Wall. What follows is a beautiful, intriguing and luscious journey through nature, as Sethi reflects on how the natural world and the environment interact with notions of identity, belonging, nationhood, language and place. This becomes even more poignant when she starts reflecting on the racist attack and her friend's death, and how her walk through nature provides not only the mental break needed to process them, but also the numerous interactions with the people on her trip. Relying on the kindness of strangers allows her to begin to ease into her skin again, and feel a sense of belonging, and she describes beautifully how people of colour have a longer history in the UK than people often think, which responds excellently to her attacker, and you get the feeling that she is winning out by writing this. Her investigations into language and its connection to place are also fascinating. She weaves beautiful patterns between words used for natural phenomenon, like "fell", "force" and "scar", and their relationships to violence, and it feels like cathartic release as she details their definitions and applications in both worlds. It took me a little bit to get into the book, partly because I found the introductory section especially jarring. This was because it essentially gave a synopsis of the book in what felt like a rushed sprint through the entire plot and journey, never lingering long enough on anything, so that when the book began properly, the power of some of the earlier moments felt weakened. This meant that the beginning did not seem to strike much of a balance between the discussions of identity and the descriptions of environment, and felt as if it flitted between both. That said, once Sethi herself settles into the walking journey itself, the book fittingly settles into an even and powerful rhythm that drives this beautiful and important book forward, and it reaches a conclusion that is heartwarming, poignant, powerful and empowering. I received an advance copy of this book from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Gail Owen

    What a beautiful meander through the national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty in Northern England. Beautifully written, thought provoking and inspiring. I read this in one sitting and really couldn’t put the book down, every other page I encountered passages of text that evoked such emotion that I had read them out loud to my husband and share the experience. Anita Sethi documents her journey from childhood to the horrific racial abuse she receives on a train journey with such clari What a beautiful meander through the national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty in Northern England. Beautifully written, thought provoking and inspiring. I read this in one sitting and really couldn’t put the book down, every other page I encountered passages of text that evoked such emotion that I had read them out loud to my husband and share the experience. Anita Sethi documents her journey from childhood to the horrific racial abuse she receives on a train journey with such clarity and emotive language the reader is both moved and shocked. I belong here is a combination of nature writing, historical teaching and an observation of the misogyny and racism that runs deep still today in 2021 Britain. However, this isn’t a book that makes you feel hopeless, quite the opposite, Anita Sethi demonstrates clearly the power of language to confront, to call out discrimination. The book meanders between her personal story, description of walking in the Pennines, she intersperses history lessons and stories of the kindness of strangers. This format is reminiscence of any long distance journey or walk through nature and takes the reader on a virtual journey of their own, through history, nature and the glorious north. This seems to be Anita’s first full book, I do hope it won’t be her last. I received an advance copy of this book from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review, many thanks. All opinions are my own

  16. 4 out of 5

    Stuart Morse

    DNF - I tried many times to finish this book, just couldn't get through it. There is no doubt that the author suffered some terrible racial abuse, this book attempts to tell the tale of a walk of recovery and pride. The technically poor writing left me wondering if it had been edited at all. Where some writers use repetition effectively I felt that Sethi simply lacked the vocabulary and was almost lazy with the same turn of phrase. These repeated words or phrases jarred every time I crossed them, DNF - I tried many times to finish this book, just couldn't get through it. There is no doubt that the author suffered some terrible racial abuse, this book attempts to tell the tale of a walk of recovery and pride. The technically poor writing left me wondering if it had been edited at all. Where some writers use repetition effectively I felt that Sethi simply lacked the vocabulary and was almost lazy with the same turn of phrase. These repeated words or phrases jarred every time I crossed them, in fact they began to infuriate me. After too many mentions of backbone and gas lighting I had to stop. Sethi also attempts to educate the reader with factoid dumps that felt laboured, heavy handed and if I'm honest not overly educational either.

  17. 4 out of 5

    chris tervit

    If I hadn’t read so many other (better) books about women of colour & racism in UK, I may have gained more from this. Instead, I found myself a tad irritated by repeated use of the words ‘gaslighting’ and ‘intersectionality’, and some of her analogies were simply too literal. More of the nature & walking stuff please.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Rhian Pritchard

    This is a very needed story, and I loved the nature writing in parts, but I just did not get on with the author's style of writing. This is a very needed story, and I loved the nature writing in parts, but I just did not get on with the author's style of writing.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    This could and should have been an amazing book and I think I want mostly to blame the editor that it is not. This may or may not be fair: Anita Sethi has previously been a writer of the short form, and this book was written and published firstly in the wake of a particular incident of thankfully successfully prosecuted racial abuse and secondly at a time of great (pandemic) stress, generally and for the author (she mentions losing her rented room and without using the word, is homeless for a ti This could and should have been an amazing book and I think I want mostly to blame the editor that it is not. This may or may not be fair: Anita Sethi has previously been a writer of the short form, and this book was written and published firstly in the wake of a particular incident of thankfully successfully prosecuted racial abuse and secondly at a time of great (pandemic) stress, generally and for the author (she mentions losing her rented room and without using the word, is homeless for a time). Some might think they can get away with describing the book as 'rambling' writing because the author is writing about 'rambling', haha. It's not rambling, it jumps and skitters and stutters which I think partly reflects a stitched together notes approach (which leads to some clearly not intentional repetitions and even grammatical errors) and partly an accurate and in some ways useful to the reader reflection of the author's state of mind. I don't think she is pretending otherwise but it makes for hard going at times and overall undermines the overall impact of the book. I did enjoy the somewhat journalistically styled focusing in on eg geology, word origins and I think she raises many important issues around race, colonialism, nature and belonging in an engaging way so that this is a book I would recommend to others despite its flaws. It's also an original work, distinct from many others about the impact of nature, of the outdoors, of walking. Superficially it is perhaps sometimes trite but fundamentally I feel it really isn't (whereas some other books prove the other way around) and I really want to hear more from her on all the subjects she touches upon, especially barriers to diverse access to the outdoors. She makes a very wise distinction between nature care and 'cure' - perhaps because she is someone so directly affected by such profound and systemic issues. She has every right to skate over some very serious issues in her past giving no more detail than she does - a sexual assault, continual racist abuse growing up in Manchester - but it is horrifying to speculate who may be the unnamed individual responsible for vicious physical and verbal abuse. There are some exasperations and things I wondered at: she refers to having travelled without items she was recommended to have because she 'couldn't afford' them and makes a similar reference to buying a second hand paper (unlaminated) OS map for similar reasons. Now it could be that for all sorts of reasons she was concealed her need from her friends, people who are thanked, or there were complications in organising it but I found myself irritated - were all these folk waffling on about literary matters and none of them thought to say "Here, you can borrow mine..."? She never really needs to be rescued on her walks and she's not exactly teetering up the fells in flip flops but I wasn't comfortable. I don't know if this points to shit friends or a more general problem of support networks which don't work, perhaps related to the issues she's examining in the book. Then again, she refers to the frequency with which she is cautioned by all and sundry against walking alone in the wilds, unreasonably in my view with the right basic equipment and a system for checking in (neither of which quite applies on the evidence provided)... and then accepts a lift she doesn't even really need, although the full evidence of the creepiness of the situation (which fortunately doesn't actually go anywhere nasty) isn't revealed until later. I'd've liked her ?impulsiveness ?desperation unpacking a little more. Because of the skittery nature of the book (and not really down to the slightly skittery nature of the journey or rather journeys, that was refreshingly unslavish and non-completist), it wasn't as successful as it might have been as place writing. Had I not had at least a passing familiarity with nearly all the places she visits, I think it could have lost me. However, the section of the book in which, climbing Pen y Ghent as a day walk in the company of a 12 year old she has met from a family in the midst of a divorce, they visit Hull Pot is a brilliant and moving piece of writing that will stay with me - the literal and the metaphorical experience both.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    This review also appears on my blog at: https://livemanylives.wordpress.com/ There is a lot of talk about privilege and prejudice and a lot of arguing about whether they exist. There is a tendency for those with privilege to prefer to focus on what they have done to get where they are rather than how they were helped up before they even started, to discount the systemic struggles of others by highlighting the personal struggles of one’s own. Right at the start of I Belong Here you begin to see pri This review also appears on my blog at: https://livemanylives.wordpress.com/ There is a lot of talk about privilege and prejudice and a lot of arguing about whether they exist. There is a tendency for those with privilege to prefer to focus on what they have done to get where they are rather than how they were helped up before they even started, to discount the systemic struggles of others by highlighting the personal struggles of one’s own. Right at the start of I Belong Here you begin to see privilege in something as simple as the need Anita Sethi has to make that statement, “I belong here”, because she has had it questioned by others for so long. It is bad enough that anyone might experience abuse based on their race, to be told to “go back where you came from” even if you came from somewhere else, but how must it feel and impact you when the place you were born treats you with such venom? Here is a chance to understand. Throughout the narrative Sethi skilfully combines her journey as a woman of colour whose country has become a hostile environment with her journey through the wilder landscapes of that country experiencing its natural wonders on the Pennine Way. Both feed into her sense of identity, her connection to the physical place that she calls home and her rejection by at least part of the nation that overlays that land. As she travels through this beautiful backbone of the country, she recognises elements of her journey in its structure and evolution. The scars left on the land by violent ruptures in its past mirror her own and she finds strength. The Pennine Way shines throughout and Sethi brings it to life as she explores it through both her own eyes and those of people she meets along the way, Rori’s young enthusiasm for the landscape being particularly enjoyable. The author’s race is inevitably a key part of the narrative, as it is central to her relationship both to the land, which provides her with an escape from the anxiety that a history of racist abuse has created, and the nation, in which she was born but which regularly rejects her. It is a burden that takes compassion to understand, maybe Anita Sethi would like to be a nature writer in the mould of Nan Shepherd or Robert Macfarlane, but she cannot do that while racism remains such a fundamental part of our culture. We have reached a point in this country where “liberal” is an insult, where you are considered a traitor to the country if you question its history, are dismissed as an extremist if you value diversity and welcome the stranger as another expression of your own essence. It is a frightening atmosphere designed to create division and prevent cohesive scrutiny and accountability of power and it corrodes what it is to be human and to be alive. We need to create an atmosphere in which people are encouraged to share their stories honestly and we all pause to listen deeply. The present climate does not provide space for either as it encourages rage, division and an orientation of defence rather than compassion. If we collectively take a deep breath in which we seek to understand each other’s pain and anger then we may stand a chance of working through it and realising that we are all part of one whole. Maybe then, we can move forwards. I Belong Here will be published on 29 April 2021 by Bloomsbury Wildlife. I received an advance review copy via NetGalley.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Brooke

    First of all, I wanted to say a big thank you to NetGalley and Bloomsbury Publishing for this ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. • First of all, I want to put some trigger warnings in place as there is mention of hate crimes, particularly race, hate crimes so please be cautious if this may present a trigger to you. • “Racism is about the skin, with no regard of the human heart beating within” This novel is such a raw account of how trauma from racially aggravated attacks can stay wi First of all, I wanted to say a big thank you to NetGalley and Bloomsbury Publishing for this ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. • First of all, I want to put some trigger warnings in place as there is mention of hate crimes, particularly race, hate crimes so please be cautious if this may present a trigger to you. • “Racism is about the skin, with no regard of the human heart beating within” This novel is such a raw account of how trauma from racially aggravated attacks can stay with an person. They can become suffocated, as though they’re constantly re-drowning underneath the abhorrent assault of words projected. It’s so so important to read such memoirs, as heartbreaking as it is to read, people of different races and cultural backgrounds don’t have the option of just reading these horrid events. They have to deal with this on a regular basis. Absorbing this and not being ignorant or complicit when you see hate crimes being committed is essential! Systemic change is needed drastically, and as the oppressors, white people need to (at bare minimum) read such harrowing memoirs, it’s easy to turn a blind eye, it’s harder to face what’s actually happening and do something about it. The hard way is the only option. Personally I was mesmerised by this memoir, I particularly adored how Anita took such a disgusting event that happened to her, and turned it into a place of empowerment. It’s very beautifully written, it flows very easily and makes you feel utterly immersed in the landscape of the Pennines, each page leaps out like a vivid trance. You can see what’s happening like a movie in your mind, the raw emotions this book elicits is so powerful and unique to other memoirs I’ve read. It made me wish I was there with Anita myself, holding her hand in solidarity and reassurance that she’s such a powerful woman. Reading about her confidence and empowerment was so heartening, she is an utterly exceptional woman. I am truly so grateful I got to read her beautiful words. Her actions of solidarity towards fellow ethnic minorities and words of empowerment were so uplifting and moving. • Its also an incredibly educational novel, about past racism in Britain and how it needs to be brought to light, rather than being pushed aside, enabling white washing of British history to almost encourage, further racism from generations. Anita’s highlighting of such racist systemic events, are commendable. I know that shouldn’t be the case, but I can only imagine how difficult speaking up can feel, particularly in a systematically racist country, often in fear of your life, which is utterly abhorrent. • This is just an utterly empowering novel and I couldn’t recommend it enough, I can’t be more grateful that I managed to get my hands on an ARC. I would recommend this book to everyone, but I would also boost this to those of ethnic minorities or marginalised groups, it’s a great book if you feel alone. It touches on such important aspects including mental health following traumatic events (particularly hate crimes) and how nature can be such a healing and loving space in which to feel like you belong. Because you do, you do belong here, no matter your skin colour, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, you matter. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  22. 5 out of 5

    Katy Wilson

    I was really looking forward to reading this book. It is the tale of a journey - through the physical landscape of the Pennines and the North of England, and also through the experiences of the author who was attacked verbally on a train by a man who wanted her to feel hated, unwanted and unwelcome. Anita Sethi is a British writer born in Manchester. Her roots are deeply embedded in the North of England but because of her family tree stretching its branches to Kenya and to the Caribean and becaus I was really looking forward to reading this book. It is the tale of a journey - through the physical landscape of the Pennines and the North of England, and also through the experiences of the author who was attacked verbally on a train by a man who wanted her to feel hated, unwanted and unwelcome. Anita Sethi is a British writer born in Manchester. Her roots are deeply embedded in the North of England but because of her family tree stretching its branches to Kenya and to the Caribean and because she is a 'woman of colour', she has had to fight for her sense of belonging. There are forces in this world that try to exclude and diminish others and she is determined to stand up to them. The cultural wounds of racism and sexism damage us all but the day to day battle is felt most strongly by those whose voices are marginalised and often suppressed. This book is about walking, and taking space, and being heard and standing firm in the face of opposition. The healing power of Nature is the birthright of all living beings but there is a reality that for people of colour, the rural spaces are sometimes made uncomfortable by the white people that live there. Will that old man sitting on a bench at the foot of a mountain just hello or will he question my right to be here? As a white woman I do not have to consider this when I travel the country. As a woman I understand very well the need to be on alert. This book is a personal journey, and also an educational one. I found many interesting stories and facts that I didn't know. I didn't know that birds have magnetite in their beaks, nor that the North of England was once awash with tropical seas. I liked Ms Sethis's description of her journey as 'one of reclaiming both language and landscape' So much history and information, and the descriptions of places make me want to grab a map and plan a visit, It offers inspiration to take a walking trip, to walk oneself well. My one misgiving about this book was that sometimes I found the sentence structures clunky and it didn't flow well for me. I think it could have benefited from a stronger edit. The bumpiness I noticed, troubled my journey somewhat but didn't stop me moving along through an otherwise fascinating, moving and inspiring book. Let me finish on one of the many thought-provoking questions that the book invites us to answer: "Where were the first steps you took and what place did you most spend your early life walking through?" The major thing I enjoyed in this book was the author's raw honesty and courage in sharing her process of healing with the reader. She did what is always necessary but which is also always terrifying after an attack, she stood tall and spoke her truth and held her space. Walking through a wild landscape is deeply nourishing but each step is a brave one and sometimes we wobble, and sometimes we soar. Let me end on one of my favourite quotes : "Lichen is a survivor, growing even when the odds seem to be against any kind of flourishing, 'Be more like lichen', I think"

  23. 5 out of 5

    stephanie suh

    To tell a story within yourself is the sovereign right and natural privilege to be a human in an expanse of will wielded by the spirit of freedom. Storytelling is, in fact, a way of logotherapy that helps you find meaning in life from your daily tasks to your traumatic experiences by sublimating the pains of the heart to the blessings of the spirit, in the realization of Amore Feti. In this book, Anita Sethi shoehorns her experience of racism in England into a rivetingly ingenious travel memoir To tell a story within yourself is the sovereign right and natural privilege to be a human in an expanse of will wielded by the spirit of freedom. Storytelling is, in fact, a way of logotherapy that helps you find meaning in life from your daily tasks to your traumatic experiences by sublimating the pains of the heart to the blessings of the spirit, in the realization of Amore Feti. In this book, Anita Sethi shoehorns her experience of racism in England into a rivetingly ingenious travel memoir in the spectacle of a beautiful natural landscape where she belongs. Her narrative has a lyrical quality with a poet’s rhythm that reminds me of a Portuguese Fado song. Her words sing her story of an uneasy love relationship with her own country into a continuous fugue of love, betrayal, loneliness, and friendship vested with her experiences with people and nature. It is at once dolorous and enchanting as if to listen to a mysteriously elusive melody hummed by a ghost of a sad maiden who died in brokenheartedness. Yet, this doesn’t mean Sethi is a ghost damsel in distress bemoaning her betrayed love. She is a warrior who chose the pen to vindicate her attacker and other minor offenders of her South Asian ethnicity as a way to overcome her fear and anxiousness, arising from her ashes like Nietzsche’s noble phoenix. Sethi’s narrative then becomes a eulogy to the natural landscape of Great Britain; she finds an elbow room, a niche, her library of wonder. As Shakespeare pointed out, nature is exempt from public haunt, finds good in everything. It is a grand luxurious spa free of charge to all, although that is not always tainted by the malice of incivility on the part of humans. However, Sethi, in her story, asserts that no one can take away her right to belong in the beauty of nature and the country she regards as a home and proclaims her self-identity by telling her personal story incorporating the words into the images of British mountains and forests, exempting her from a malady of social ills and elevating her to the citizens of the Universe. The book is an excellent bedtime fellow when you want something thoughtful but not burdened with elements associated with scholarly apparatuses. The narrative is flowing melodiously, and the author’s spirit is within the texts, full of emotions but nuanced in her infatuation with the beauty of British landscapes that provide her with holistic healing power. They say you don’t protect what you don’t care about, and you don’t care what you have not experienced. To appreciate the value of this book doesn’t mean you have to be of a particular ethnicity, gender, or race. As long as you have taste and judgment universal in all humans, especially with a strong sense of empathy and a lover of nature, you will find her story alluringly gripping and feel her pains and loves as if they were your own.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    As a female and someone who loves to run and walk in nature, I am incredibly interested in how other women view landscape and place. It feels as though the genre of nature and travel writing is a field dominated by male voices and so I was really excited to read a fresh perspective that felt like it could be closer to my own experience of being outdoors. In some ways it was a similar experience. Sethi describes the warnings she receives from concerned individuals about a lone female travelling al As a female and someone who loves to run and walk in nature, I am incredibly interested in how other women view landscape and place. It feels as though the genre of nature and travel writing is a field dominated by male voices and so I was really excited to read a fresh perspective that felt like it could be closer to my own experience of being outdoors. In some ways it was a similar experience. Sethi describes the warnings she receives from concerned individuals about a lone female travelling alone and the potential dangers she may encounter. I have encountered feelings of trepidation and nervousness about what I might encounter stepping off the beaten path. There is a moment in the book where she accepts a lift from a young man in a white transit van which made me feel an ominous foreboding; that in some way she was being unwise. I questioned this decision, an acceptance of a lift, in a way that I would not have if it had been made by a man. And that is partly the point of the book: that all people should be entitled and be able to access the landscape and seek out these natural places without fear and trepidation of being hurt by others. Anita Sethi’s bravery felt two fold however. Writing not just as a female, but as a female of colour documenting a history of navigating racial intolerance and abuse. Her journey across The Pennines was prompted due to being the victim of an atrocious hate crime that called into question her sense of belonging in a country of where she was both born and raised. The feeling of always wondering whether or not she would be accepted or the victim of racism when she steps out into the natural world is something that I myself as a white person have never had to experience. Sethi writes with a poignant honesty that is both knowledgeable and reflective, calling for the imperative need for awareness and change. She considers how landscape and nature have the ability to restore and generate hope. It struck me that despite all the adversity she had experienced, she was able to write with such redemptive power that it gave me hope. I was bereft when the book ended but felt encouraged about what our relationship with the natural world and each other might hold.

  25. 4 out of 5

    sameera

    I Belong Here— a mix of heartfelt memoir and nature writing. in this book, Sethi pens an immersive and emotional exploration of belonging and self-hood in its many versions, set against the backdrop of her walking journey through The Pennines across Northern England. her decision to make the journey was born out of a traumatic experience of racist abuse, which had left her feeling unmoored and longing to deepen her connection with the land in which she was born. the most interesting part of the I Belong Here— a mix of heartfelt memoir and nature writing. in this book, Sethi pens an immersive and emotional exploration of belonging and self-hood in its many versions, set against the backdrop of her walking journey through The Pennines across Northern England. her decision to make the journey was born out of a traumatic experience of racist abuse, which had left her feeling unmoored and longing to deepen her connection with the land in which she was born. the most interesting part of the book for me was its exploration of nature and walking as both a freeing and privileged experience, and of the many ways that such freedoms were & are denied to certain groups. reflecting on the astonishing fact that only 1% of national park visitors in the UK are from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, Sethi writes about her own isolating experience of travelling alone as a South Asian woman, through a landscape that is often described as ‘quintessentially English’ . contemplating on the close links between nature and belonging, she traces the long history of class-based movements in the countryside, which protested inequality in access to nature and for the right to roam free across privatised land. sethi also recounts her experience travelling with ‘The Refugee Tales’, a walking group of people who have been formerly detained in immigration centres and who had experienced firsthand the violence of borders, unsafe journeys and restricted movement, but found solace and reclaimation in traversing the open fields and mountainous paths of the English countryside. truthfully, nature writing isn’t a genre i’ve explored before, and though Sethi’s writing is sentimental, hopeful and brave, it was difficult to maintain interest in moments where her writing was more meandering & where she dove into more geological & scientific descriptions of her surroundings. though it may not be a genre i will lean towards, it was certainly refreshing to read about how fulfilling and eyeopening a complete immersion in nature can be.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mark Davis

    An excellent and thought-provoking read. This is not just a book about walking the Pennine Way - that is just the magnificent backdrop to another journey Anita is taking following a vile racist hate-crime perpetrated upon her on a train journey. Yes, the book contains wonderful descriptions of some of England's wildest and most remote places which absolutely made me want to walk there, too. But she writes so well of her journey back from her horrible experience, of how nature helps to heal, yet An excellent and thought-provoking read. This is not just a book about walking the Pennine Way - that is just the magnificent backdrop to another journey Anita is taking following a vile racist hate-crime perpetrated upon her on a train journey. Yes, the book contains wonderful descriptions of some of England's wildest and most remote places which absolutely made me want to walk there, too. But she writes so well of her journey back from her horrible experience, of how nature helps to heal, yet how much people are exploiting and destroying so much of our environment. How human health and well-being are linked inextricably to nature, to being in the open spaces and yet how few people really get to to do that. Anita also points out the multiple meanings of many different words, and how they in turn can influence one's sense of belonging (or not) of worth. She talks about childhood bullying and the racist abuse she suffered at the hands of other children and why it is that so many white people think that black and brown skinned people in particular "don't belong here" and should "go back to where they came from." Although that might all sound like heavy going, this book is anything but that. Anita writes well, paints some good pictures of her environment as well as the issues she's faced and how she's overcoming them, and generally delivers a book that is highly enjoyable, factually informative, thought-provoking and challenging. Anita is not even an experienced or hardened walker. Her footwear is inappropriate (as she soon discovers), she struggles with the miles of walking, and her backpack is either not up to the job or she's just not used to carrying something on her back for long days of walking. But her struggles with this add to, rather than detract from the book. And once you've read it, you'll realise she chose her title extremely well. A highly worthwhile and enjoyable book, from which I took so much. I would commend it to anyone.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Denyce

    Following a vicious race hate crime on a train on her way to the North of England, as well as losing a close friend to illness, Anita Sethi decides to walk the Pennine Way, to deal with the aftermath of the attack and her right to exist in the country, after being told to go home. This scenario is something that not many white British people would have to confront; whilst reading, I could feel the fear that she must have had to deal with. She follows through with the crime, at considerable cost t Following a vicious race hate crime on a train on her way to the North of England, as well as losing a close friend to illness, Anita Sethi decides to walk the Pennine Way, to deal with the aftermath of the attack and her right to exist in the country, after being told to go home. This scenario is something that not many white British people would have to confront; whilst reading, I could feel the fear that she must have had to deal with. She follows through with the crime, at considerable cost to her mental health. Walking is her way of anchoring herself to the land, dealing with her sense of belonging and wellbeing. She is determined not to be undone by the experience, that as a person of colour she will make her mark on the landscape. It is part memoir, part travelogue, dealing with both the physical and the mental aspects of being and walking. She refers to the physical aspects of the countryside - chapters are titled Mouth, Skin, Backbone, Lifeblood and Feet. It suggests being comfortable in ones body, and being in tune with nature and the landscape. She also muses about words related to the countryside, which prove to be both interesting and thought provoking. Her experiences are mostly positive, and she meets people on her travels that turn the experience of her journey into a positive one. With thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced copy in return for an honest review.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Camille

    This book is both about walking in the English countryside and about the experience of life as a racialised woman in Britain. Sethi's is a journey of claiming back her belonging through connecting with the land of home, Northern England. A vicious racist attack on a train is at the start of the book but it is not the first time something like this has happened to the author. These attacks have shaken and undermined her belief in her right to belong, and demonstrated the opinions and preconceptio This book is both about walking in the English countryside and about the experience of life as a racialised woman in Britain. Sethi's is a journey of claiming back her belonging through connecting with the land of home, Northern England. A vicious racist attack on a train is at the start of the book but it is not the first time something like this has happened to the author. These attacks have shaken and undermined her belief in her right to belong, and demonstrated the opinions and preconceptions of so many of her fellow English people who do not seem to think that she belongs. One of these people was the Prince of Wales, who once told her that she did not look like she came from Manchester, the town she had identified to him as her home. What an incredibly painful, horrible experience to have to live through, again and again. Sethi sets off to walk along the Pennine Way, on which she admires the beauty and power of nature and reclaims her identity as a Northener, and her belonging to the place of this part of England. The sanctity of the land and nature is protected by law, and she draws a parallel to the Equalities Act, which protects certain characteristics of human beings. For some reason, I had expected this to be a book of natural history, which might be similar to the work of Robert Macfarlane for example. Instead it is a deep and important contemplation of the meaning of belonging to a place, how it can be corrupted by repeated attacks, and reclaimed by connecting with the land. Reading it was a transformative journey for me, coming from my experience as a white person living in a country that is not 'mine' originally, but in which people only very rarely question my belonging. It has been a real education for me and I hope it will be for many other people, too. We have a very long way to go when it comes to making everyone feel like they belong here. This book will help me work harder towards that. The book has definitely made me want to explore the nature of the North, as well! I read an e-proof of this on Netgalley, kindly provided by Bloomsbury.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    This isn’t your usual walking book. Instead Anita Sethi uses walking to help herself come to turns with her own experience as a British person of colour. Sethi’s parents came to Manchester as a result of the activities of the British empire, yet she has never been made to feel as if she should belong here, despite being Manc born. Following an appalling racist attack on a train and then the sudden death of her friend, Sethi decides to walk through the North to try and make sense of what it means This isn’t your usual walking book. Instead Anita Sethi uses walking to help herself come to turns with her own experience as a British person of colour. Sethi’s parents came to Manchester as a result of the activities of the British empire, yet she has never been made to feel as if she should belong here, despite being Manc born. Following an appalling racist attack on a train and then the sudden death of her friend, Sethi decides to walk through the North to try and make sense of what it means to belong, to be a British northerner. It is obvious that she has a lot to deal with. What makes the book interesting is the complete difference in perspective that we get, how people’s attention to her skin colour has made so many of her life experiences different and often hostile. There is a telling example of comments made to her by Prince Charles when she met him at a function, and following the Harry/ Meghan interview this week nothing he said really comes as a surprise. Sethi attempts to join her theme of belonging, culture and race with that of destruction of the environment which is less successful than the race aspect, nevertheless, this is a fascinating book, telling one woman’s truth and deserves to be read.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Martin Drew

    There is much to like in this book, Anita Sethi is at her best with her descriptions of the natural world when her prose is quite lyrical, but that part of the book is only half the story. I have never been told to go back to where I belong and cannot imagine what it must be like to suffer that sort of racist abuse; she has and this book had its birth in a particularly unpleasant encounter on a train. So her walk along the backbone of Britain is also a reflection on who she is and what happened There is much to like in this book, Anita Sethi is at her best with her descriptions of the natural world when her prose is quite lyrical, but that part of the book is only half the story. I have never been told to go back to where I belong and cannot imagine what it must be like to suffer that sort of racist abuse; she has and this book had its birth in a particularly unpleasant encounter on a train. So her walk along the backbone of Britain is also a reflection on who she is and what happened on that train. This makes this book rather more important than maybe the title suggests, which could lead people to think it is just a travel book. It gives an insight, and it can only be an insight, into the appalling hurt people who are subjected to racist comments suffer. Sethi was born in Manchester and being screamed at to go back to where she belongs on the trans Pennine train was presumably because the racist (who was prosecuted) thought she came from outwith Britain. Her odyssey along the Pennine Way made me determined to explore more of that part of the country myself and to find High Force and see the biggest hole in the country - and that is what a good travel book should do, make you want to go. It also made me even more determined to face down racism wherever I see it.

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