Space below my feet – Gwen Moffat: Book Review
Gwen Moffat’s direct and impassive writing has accompanied me all the way to the alps and back. Now, having finished the book, I feel quite bereft, but equally uplifted and inspired by this wonderful woman’s unpretentious record of her feats of climbing and living, from just after the war in 1945, through to the 1960’s.
Her frugal writing seems to mirror the nature of her lifestyle, deserting the Land Army and travelling the country from Cornwall to Skye often with little more than a sleeping bag for company. She lived a humble existence, sleeping in barns, under trees and next to rivers in all weathers, sometimes not eating for a few days at a time, whilst gradually building up a brilliant portfolio of climbing experience. The way in which she conveys her development and setbacks in climbing elevated me and and also, interestingly, made me reflect on my own position in climbing. She is a pioneering woman, treading lightly, barefoot, up mountains, slowly assimilating the skills and the knowledge needed to be great in the hills – it’s ok to plod and that way you really enjoy the journey. By working in this way Gwen Moffatt became the first female British guide – quite an achievement in 1953.
From the first page to the last I was enchanted by the book, my own wanderlust being excited by her words of freedom and emancipation. What interested me so particularly was the detached manner in which she treats the subject of motherhood. Of course a book of this size is a small space in which to describe twenty years’ worth of adventures, but I think women climbers and mountaineers have a tendency to speak more of their position as a parent than men in the same position. Gwen didn’t really do that in this book – she just concentrated on compelling stories of her unencumbered ventures in the climbing world.
It is a 5 star highly recommended read.
You can find out a little more about Gwen in the article on page 18 here: https://www.thebmc.co.uk/Handlers/DownloadHandler.ashx?id=479
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