Walking the Paths of Trailblazing Women
A Smithsonian Top Ten Best Book About Travel of 2021
An Apple Books Pick of the Month and a Powell’s and The Story Exchange Best Book of Fall
“A gorgeous and revelatory blend of memoir, travelogue, and long-forgotten history.”—Abbott Kahler
Annabel Abbs’s Windswept: Walking the Paths of Trailblazing Women is a beautifully written meditation on connecting with the outdoors through the simple act of walking. In captivating and elegant prose, Abbs follows in the footsteps of women who boldly reclaimed wild landscapes for themselves, including Georgia O’Keeffe in the empty plains of Texas and New Mexico, Nan Shepherd in the mountains of Scotland, Gwen John following the French River Garonne, Daphne du Maurier along the River Rhône, and Simone de Beauvoir—who walked as much as twenty-five miles a day in a dress and espadrilles—through the mountains and forests of France.
Part historical inquiry and part memoir, the stories of these writers and artists are laced together by moments in Abb’s own life, beginning with her poet father who raised her in the Welsh countryside as an “experiment,” according to the principles of Rousseau. Abbs explores a forgotten legacy of moving on foot and discovers how it has helped women throughout history to find their voices, to reimagine their lives, and to break free from convention.
As Abbs traces the paths of exceptional women, she realizes that she, too, is walking away from her past and into a radically different future. Windswept crosses continents and centuries in a provocative and poignant account of the power of walking in nature.
Ms. Abbs’s brief biographies are unfailingly interesting and even
revelatory. . . . Reading about the unfettered freedom to roam enjoyed
by these trailblazing women induced considerable vicarious pleasure—and
—The Wall Street Journal
Beautiful and meditative. . . . This lush narrative serves as the perfect excuse to get moving.
[Abbs] connects clarity of mind, communion with land, and rejection of gender roles to this specific corporeal movement—one which many have turned to in the past year.
A writer follows in the footsteps—literally—of eight hiking women of
the 19th and early 20th centuries. . . . A fascinating, deeply
—The Star Tribune
Should be read by all women and those who love the outdoors.
Abbs brings to life the joys and inspirations that only a nature walk can provide.
Deeply personal. . . . Windswept is the record of one woman’s trek to find other walking women. When Abbs sets out into the wild, she finds them, and she comes to find herself more fully too.
Part memoir, part cultural critique through the lens of ‘famous walking women,’ including but not limited to Simone de Beauvoir, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Daphne du Maurier.
This unusual blend of history and memoir traces the paths—literally—of
female trailblazers who used walking as a way to connect with the world,
—The Story Exchange
Windswept crosses continents and centuries in a provocative and poignant account of the power of walking in nature.
—New Books Network
Compelling. . . . One of the most exhilarating and masterful reflections ever on how to meaningfully move on our own feet and the remarkable women who made this a unique expression of their being.
Abbs is a witty and engaging guide, seamlessly weaving her own experience with those of her ‘walking women,’ all of whom discovered that the simple act of taking one step at a time can be the most powerful—and defiant—of all.
—Abbott Kahler, New York Times bestselling author of The Ghosts of Eden Park
A triumph. . . . I felt as though I were being lifted, carried up to peaks.
—Charlotte Peacock, author of Into the Mountain: A Life of Nan Shepherd
I couldn’t put it down. Quite extraordinary. . . . written in such a free flowing, readable style. I’m in awe.
—Maggie Humm, author of Talland House
I love how the act of walking connects the lives of these women–and how it transforms them. It makes me want to go for a hike just to see what happens. Windswept satisfies my endless appetite for untold stories of women’s history, filling important gaps and bringing their stories into light.
—Mia Kankimäki, author of The Women I Think About At Night