The Place of Tides

The Place of Tides


From the No.1 bestselling author of The Shepherd's Life, a spellbinding story of friendship, history and redemption on a remote Norwegian island

We are all in need of lights to follow.

One afternoon many years ago, James Rebanks met an old woman on a remote Norwegian island. She lived and worked alone on a tiny rocky outcrop, caring for wild Eider ducks and gathering their down. Hers was a centuries-old trade that had once made men and women rich, but had long been in decline. Still, somehow, she seemed to be hanging on.

Back at home, Rebanks couldn’t stop thinking about the woman on the rocks. She was fierce and otherworldly – and yet strangely familiar. Years passed. Then, one day, he wrote her a letter, asking if he could return. Bring work clothes, she replied, and good boots, and come quickly: her health was failing. And so he travelled to the edge of the Arctic to witness her last season on the island.

This is the story of that season. It is the story of a unique and ancient landscape, and of the woman who brought it back to life. It traces the pattern of her work from the rough, isolated toil of bitter winter, to the elation of the endless summer light, when the birds leave behind their precious down for gathering, like feathered gold.

Slowly, Rebanks begins to understand that this woman and her world are not what he had previously thought. What began as a journey of escape becomes an extraordinary lesson in self-knowledge and forgiveness.


  • A magnificent book -- wonderfully unlike any other. Rebanks is a passionately close observer of the natural order and our vexed position within it. The Place of Tides is big-hearted and transporting, a quietly gripping reckoning with self-sufficiency and interdependence, with the lives that make us and the lives that we make. I didn’t want it to end, and I can’t wait to reread it
    Philip Gourevitch

About the author

James Rebanks

James Rebanks is a farmer based in the Lake District, where his family have lived and worked for over six hundred years. His No.1 bestselling debut, The Shepherd's Life, won the Lake District Book of the Year, was shortlisted for the Wainwright and Ondaatje prizes, and has been translated into sixteen languages. His second book, English Pastoral, was also a Top Ten bestseller and was named the Sunday Times Nature Book of the Year. Heralded as a 'masterpiece' by the New Statesman, it was shortlisted for the Ondaatje prize, and longlisted for the Rathbones Folio prize and the Orwell Prize for Political Writing.
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