To the River

Olivia Laing



  • Canongate Books
  • 2017
  • ISBN 9781786891587
  • 286 pages
  • Softcover
  • 20 × 13 × 2 cm

“A river passing through a landscape catches the world and gives it back redoubled: a shifting, glinting world more mysterious than the one we customarily inhabit. Rivers run through our civilisations like strings through beads.”

Over sixty years after Virginia Woolf drowned in the River Ouse, Olivia Laing set out one midsummer morning to walk its banks, from source to sea. Along the way, she explores the roles that rivers play in human lives, tracing their intricate flow through literature, mythology and folklore.

Lyrical and stirring, To the River is a passionate investigation into how history resides in a landscape – and how ghosts never quite leave the places they love.


“A gentle, wise and riddling book” – Robert Macfarlane

“Magical … By turns lyrical, melancholic and exultant, To the River just makes you want to follow Olivia Laing all the way to the sea” – Philip Hoare