Malachy Tallack – 60 Degrees North (3 stars)

Malachy Tallack – 60 Degrees North

Shetland writer and singer goes around the world in search of home

A writer loses their father suddenly and later dives headlong into a project with nature. No, it’s not Helen Macdonald’s H is for Hawk, it’s Malachy Tallack’s 60 Degrees North, a mystical meditation on the parallel line which cuts across Shetland, Scandinavia, Alaska, Canada and Greenland.

As an adopted Shetlander who has always felt conflicted about his homeland, the restless Tallack chose to write about his feelings by heading off on a global trip which would take him to some unforgiving landscapes. Written with a real feeling for place, Tallack certainly packs in plenty of history and notes his encounters with local characters never less than sympathetically. He also paints some lovely imagery: arctic terns ‘pinned like little crucifixes against the sky’ and a sea otter ‘as sleek as a polished walnut’.

While Helen Macdonald’s loss felt like a profound trigger to launch herself into other worlds, you don’t fully get that sense here. And his closing assertion that the north has somehow been uniquely unfair to its estranged indigenous peoples might come as a surprise to many quarters in the Americas and Australia.

Out on Thu 16 Jul, published by Polygon.

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