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Summary

In this masterpiece of nature writing, beautifully narrated by Oscar-winning actress Tilda Swinton, Nan Shepherd describes her journeys into the Cairngorm mountains of Scotland. There she encounters a world that can be breathtakingly beautiful at times and shockingly harsh at others. Her intense, poetic prose explores and records the rocks, rivers, creatures and hidden aspects of this remarkable landscape.

Shepherd spent a lifetime in search of the ‘essential nature’ of the Cairngorms; her quest led her to write this classic meditation on the magnificence of mountains, and on our imaginative relationship with the wild world around us. Composed during the Second World War, the manuscript of The Living Mountain lay untouched for more than 30 years before it was finally published.

©2019 Nan Shepherd (P)2019 Canongate Books Ltd

Critic reviews

"The finest book ever written on nature and landscape in Britain." (Guardian

"Reading [The Living Mountain] seems to me to explain why reading is so important. And odd. And necessary. And not like anything else. There is no substitute for reading." (Jeanette Winterson)

"Most works of mountain literature are written by men, and most of them focus on the goal of the summit. Nan Shepherd's aimless, sensual exploration of the Cairngorms is bracingly different." (Robert MacFarlane)

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What listeners say about The Living Mountain

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Aaaaaaaaarrrrrrgggggghhhhhh!!!!! Ruined!

Just listened to yet another mangled name, in this case 'Skeeehallion'
Nothing personal Tilda, but there must be a million more suitable readers, perhaps not famous, available.
Shame, it really spoils the reading. Should be listened to with a Scottish burr.

33 people found this helpful

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magical and absorbing

Took a little time to get into but the more I listened, the more I was caught up in the beautiful prose and intriguing viewpoints, and now want to listen to it all over again. Loved Tilda Swinton's narration which was part of the beguilement.

10 people found this helpful

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Nature writing at it's very best.

On my third listen of the LIving Mountain. Tilda Swinton's narration is understated, insightful, nuanced and maintains a rhythm entirely suited to the prose. If you have spent much time walking landscapes and observing life therein this book will take you on a dream like journey that I hope you will find as engrossing as I did. Enjoy.

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really wanted to like this but struggled

Had read so many positive reviews of this and had fond memories of being up the Cairngorms as a kid but really struggled to stick with this. Might try again when I can't physically get up the hills.

6 people found this helpful

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beautiful and profound

what a wonderful audiobook. I'm about to start over listening again because there is so much here to absorb and enjoy

6 people found this helpful

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Mesmerising

A wonderful listen, which is more like beautiful poetry. Definetly a book to listen to again and find new elements to enjoy.

4 people found this helpful

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Exquisite

I plan to trek in the Cairn Gorm now.....it will be my second trip! as I've just finished my first trip with Nan Shepard.
So vivid was this journey into the living mountain that I feel so much more relaxed after the book, as one would after a beautiful holiday immersed in nature.
It took a little while to get onto the rhythm of the book, as it takes one time to get into the rhythm of a good trek into the mountains, but worth persisting, the rewards will be many.
The afterword by Jeanette Winterson on the essence of reading is so pertinent today that it alone deserves a review...5 stars , of course.

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Transported to the landscape of the Cairngorms

Sensory journey to the peaks of the Cairngorms. Loved the description of the seasonal landscape.

2 people found this helpful

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Nature writing at its best

This is pure education of senses to capture one’s surroundings. And training/ demonstration of language to express what one senses. Beautifully written, beautifully read, it carried me on mountain hikes while laying on my sofa.

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amazing

Struggled at the start but once I got into it I really enjoyed it. It takes you away from this modern consumerist way of life and makes you think about nature, weather and being at one within yourself. I'm not a mountain climbers but I can now understand it's meditative value. I intend to listen to it again over the winter.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Betsy Fowler
  • 10-06-19

Timeless evocation of a mountain range

Nan Shepherd's classic work on the Cairngorm range is beautifully read by Tilda Swinton with the ecstasy of the writer herself. (Only a Scot could tackle all the Gaelic names so nicely!) Because the style is poetic and meditative, however, it should probably be read rather than heard. The superb Robert MacFarlane (from whom I first learned of the book) adds context to the work, and Jeanette Winterson contributes a personal perspective.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Jessica Snickidy
  • 23-05-20

Was not expecting this

Was not expecting to be ‘pulled into’ this writing. I believe this book is a gift. Thank you Nan and thank you God.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Ellen Fremedon
  • 03-05-20

Luminous

This book is the most luminous and numinous I have read in a long time. Tilda Swinton is wonderful.

3 people found this helpful

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  • N.S.C.
  • 16-12-21

A pinnacle of nature writing, brilliantly read

My highest recommendation if you might enjoy 20th century nature writing and poetically descriptive nonfiction. The audiobook performance by Swinton brings out the best in this powerful text by Shepherd, and the essays by Macfarlane and Winterson are great and beautifully read by the authors as well.

1 person found this helpful

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  • John
  • 26-04-21

Beautifully done

Beautifully written and read book and afterwards do justice to this well-crafted look at how we are in nature and how nature is in us.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Chanda Richardson
  • 15-06-22

A hidden Scottish treasure …

The Living Mountain was so much more than I expected. While traveling through Scotland and looking for a book more about the local area that we were in I stumbled on to this recommendation and came away with something special. Nan Shepherds observational weaving of her time in the Cairngorms takes you to the quite spots on the mountain as well as in yourself. She allows the reader inside a piece of Scotland that few are able to see experience.

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  • Donna Andrews
  • 24-04-22

Wonderful

The language is gorgeous, and Tilda Swinton brings exactly the right voice and humor and lilt, with a Scottish accent only where necessary, and it is necessary to hear how the place names are pronounced. I don’t always find being read to better than reading, but in this case it was. It’s also a perfect book for dipping back into the narration because the chapters have titles so I can dip back to the chapter about animals or about senses any time. I will definitely listen to this again.

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  • R. Luskey
  • 29-03-22

Absolutely wonderful

A wonderful reading of a fantastic book. Tilda Swinton’s voice is perfect for this. The afterwords by Macfarlane and Winterson are equally powerful and amazing. Absolutely worthy of multiple listens.

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  • Marshmallow
  • 24-02-22

Perfection

This production is unusual. The readers and the material are excellent. If one knows the printed book it would surely add to the enjoyment of it, or if one has encountered the work for the first time through having it read aloud by Tilda Swinton, this is a great gift. I listen to it again and again.

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  • Elka
  • 17-02-22

Not merely a book! Experience this. Savor this.

To know a place, and feel a place in your soul and have it transcend you...what a gift. Nan Shepherd exquisitely accounts her love affair with the Cairngorms, and Tilda Swinton's velvet narration enhances this gossamer tale.