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In her mid-30s Rebecca Loncraine was diagnosed with breast cancer. Two years later, and after months of gruelling treatment, she flew in a glider for the first time. In that engineless plane, soaring 3000 feet over the landscape of her childhood with only the rising thermals to take her higher and the birds to lead the way, she fell in love. If illness meant Rebecca had lost touch with the world around her, gliding showed her a way to learn to live again.
And so Rebecca travelled from the Black Mountains in Wales to New Zealand's Southern Alps and the Nepalese Himalayas to chase her newfound passion: her need to fly with the birds, to push herself to the boundary of her own fear. Skybound is the story of that obsession and of Rebecca's incredible journey from the ground, into the sky and back again.
Taking in the history of unpowered flight, and with extraordinary descriptions of flying in some of the world's most dangerous and dramatic locations, this is a nature memoir with a unique perspective; it is about the land we know and the sky we know so little of, it is about memory and self-discovery.
Just as she finished writing Skybound Rebecca became ill again. She died in September 2016. And yet, Skybound is still a book about learning to live again: deeply moving, thrilling and euphoric, this is a book for anyone who has ever looked up and wanted to take flight.
Rebecca Loncraine was a British freelance writer. She held a foundation diploma in Fine Art, a first class undergraduate degree in history, and a doctorate in English Literature from Oxford University. She is the author of The Real Wizard of Oz: The Life and Times of L. Frank Baum published by Gotham Books in 2009. Born in England, she grew up on a hill farm in the Black Mountains of Wales, and it was there she returned after her diagnosis of breast cancer. It is also where – after her recovery – she fell in love with glider flying. Rebecca began writing Skybound in response to her new passion and she was just finishing the new book when, in 2015, she became ill again. Rebecca died at home in Wales in September 2016.
"A profound, euphoric and courageous book about how to live joyously, and how to meet death [...] breathtaking [...] Her journey is as lyrical and complicated as the sky she describes, and her book is a shimmering parting gift to those still earthbound"
"A book that makes you look at the sky and the land with new eyes; that gives you a lift, in more ways than one [...] an extraordinary book [...] a celebration of wind and wings [...] we've lost a huge talent"
– Daily Telegraph
"As thoughtful and insightful as it is courageous and inspiring"
– Sunday Express
"Skybound is a soaring gift of a book. A moving meditation on landscapes and the leaving of them, the freedom of travelling beyond our fears and how our journeys between the known and the unknown, the familiar and the unfamiliar can teach us to cherish and see again."
– Owen Sheers
"Stunning. Rebecca Loncraine is a beautiful writer and thinker and Skybound is so full of life – a love letter to nature and a hymn of love to the parental bond."
– Cathy Rentzenbrink, author of The Last Act of Love and A Manual for Heartache
"If you're looking for beauty, love and courage, read this book"
– Nicholas Crane
"Reading Skybound is the closest you will come to flying without sprouting wings. It is an astonishingly beautiful book, a record of a life that, although heartbreakingly short, was lived vividly and thrillingly and intensely. We must all strive to do what Rebecca undoubtedly did – honour the miracle of our existence. She has left the world with something brilliant and unique."
– Niall Griffiths, author of Grits
"A valuable contribution to the literature of flight from a brave young pilot who will sadly never offer us another [...] if Skybound is a manual for anything, it's for how to find lift on the Earth in the face of uncertainties and certainties that are never far from any of us, but which Loncraine was forced to confront at much too early an age. I won't soon forget her meditations on fear and flight, on home and family, on the scars she spied and circled on the Welsh landscape below her, and on the quasi-medical paraphernalia, such as an oxygen-supplying cannula that echoed her cancer treatments even as they allowed her to fly even higher. 'Learning to fly,' she wrote, 'is like asking the universe [...] to let me go into the world to live and soar with joy and the possibility of death'. It seems safe to conclude that the universe agreed to Loncraine's request, and that in return it asked only that she leave us with this remarkable book"
– Mark Vanhoenacker, Spectator
"I have never read anything like it. A portrait of a young woman in love with the sky, painted from a palette of courage, honesty and moments of great beauty."
– Jim Crumley
"As much a biography of the air as it is a deeply moving memoir, this beautiful book transformed the way I see the sky. I learnt so much about how the air behaves, the physics of gliding. And Loncraine's affinity for the birds she observes and flies with shines through this fascinating, lovely book"
– James Macdonald Lockhart, author of Raptor
"Skybound is a profound and exquisitely written witness to the author's flight and fear, wings and woundedness. Then it lifts into something beyond: the beautiful blue brilliance of her mind's sky"
– Jay Griffiths, author of Wild: An Elemental Journey