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The Outrun

The Outrun

Amy Liptrot


A story of city addiction and island recovery.

This the second study of addictive personalities I've read recently This is a much more satisfying read than So Sad Today, partly because of its outcome and partly because of its setting. The author leaves the Orkney of her youth for London, where she falls into an alcoholism that's only really relieved when she returns to the island to detox. It's impossible to avoid the suspicion that city life itself was the cause, both its anonymity (which can be positive after time in a small place) and its restricted spaces. She returns to Orkney and experiences a range of environments, culminating most powerfully in an extended period on Papa Westray, one of the smallest islands. It's here she re-discovers herself, really: find the sense of self and self-sufficiency that was missing during her time in the city.

It's an interesting question whether a dedicated city-dweller could replicate Liptrot's journey: could someone used to the 24/7 lifestyle thrive in such quiet with just themselves for company? (Of course you're never actually forced to have only yourself for company: there's always the infinite distant company of the internet, even on the outer isles.) I suspect the answer is "no", at least for born or adopted city-zens; for people (like me) with a closer relationship with solitude and a need for just their own company, then it's tantalising.

2/5. Finished 21 December 2016.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)

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