Following the natural cycle of the year, The Land of Maybe captures the essence of 'slow life' on the 18 remote, mysterious islands which make up the Faroes in the North Atlantic. Closer to the UK than Denmark, this fast disappearing world is home to a close-knit society where just 50,000 people share Viking roots and a language that is unlike any other in Scandinavia.
We follow the arrival of the migratory birds, the over-wintering of the sheep and the way food is gathered and eaten in tune with the seasons. Buffeted by the weather and the demands of a volatile natural environment, people still hunt seabirds and herd pilot whales for a significant portion of their basic food needs.
This is not a travelogue, but a deeper exploration of how 'to be' in a tough landscape; a study of a people and a way of life that represents continuity and a deep connection to the past. The Land of Maybe offers not just a refuge from the freneticism of modern life, but lessons about where we come from and how we may find a balance in our lives.
Tim Ecott is a former BBC World Service staff correspondent. He has worked widely in Africa and the Indian Ocean. He writes documentaries for radio and screen and nonfiction, drawing heavily on his fondness for the natural world. His books include Neutral Buoyancy (Penguin) and Vanilla: Travels in Search of the Luscious Substance.
"This is Ecott at his best. His prose is incisive and elegiac. From the book's opening line we are there among the gannets, the pilot whales and sea-butted cliffs, wrestling with the winds and the enigma that is this Land of Maybe. Absorbing stuff, full of the ancient lore and very modern predicaments that daily beset the proud Faroese on their rocky outpost."
– Benedict Allen
"The tough, mystical, intangible character of the Faroes is captured by Ecott's gorgeously rich and descriptive writing that makes you believe you can smell the sea, hear the birds and feel the wind. A beautiful and evocative read."
– Kate Humble
"Filled with loving detail, humour and heart The Land of Maybe is a lyrical treat. Tim Ecott has created a raven-haunted love song to the intimate insecurity of island living and the salt-caked, tightly-braided culture of the Faroes."
– A.L. Kennedy
"In this excellent book, Ecott's evocative telling makes me want to go to this weird and wonderful place."
– Paul Theroux
"In a hot and, for many, fraught summer, these dispatches from the wind and salt-blown islands at 62 degrees north offer delicious escapism. A beautiful evocation of landscape and nature, it is, above all, a portrait of a community which maintains a deep connection with its past."
– Financial Times
"Ecott's fine book is, at root, a timely meditation on the clash between modernity and premodernity and between settler and nomad. It's an interrogation of the role of compassion in our moral lives and an examination of the crucial question of what sort of creatures we are."
– Charles Foster, The Oldie
"I never want to leave the remote island world so atmospherically, precisely educed between the covers of this book. Ecott's prose has the power of tides, his perception is as searching as the Atlantic wind, and he has the soul of a natural-born naturalist. A masterpiece."
– John Lewis-Stempel