The Observer

Into the Mountain: A Life of Nan Shepherd

The Scottish writer’s social concerns and love of nature are at the heart of Charlotte Peacock’s intriguing biography. Reviewed by Anita Sethi,

Nan Shepherd on a Scottish bank note
Nan Shepherd on a Scottish bank note

It was through reading The Old Ways by Robert Macfarlane that Charlotte Peacock first discovered the Scottish writer Nan Shepherd and her masterpiece of nature writing The Living Mountain. An account of her journeys into the harsh, beautiful Cairngorm mountains written in the 1940s, it remained unpublished until 1977. Intrigued by the enigmatic Shepherd, Peacock began researching her, resulting in this engrossing first biography.

“It’s a grand thing to get leave to live,” wrote Shepherd, words that now appear on the Royal Bank of Scotland’s £5 note. Throughout, the author traces how Shepherd’s life flowed into her literature, tackling topics of class and gender in her three novels. She also elucidates how Shepherd so compellingly conveyed “what it means to be” and grappled with the question: how does it feel to be fully alive? Best of all, this biography turns the reader back to Nan Shepherd’s brilliant books themselves.

Into the Mountain: A Life of Nan Shepherd by Charlotte Peacock is published by Galileo (£20). To order a copy for £17 go to guardianbookshop.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of £1.99

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