In 1841 the ‘peasant poet’ John Clare escapes from an asylum in Epping Forest, where he had been kept for four years, and walks over eighty miles home to Northamptonshire. Suffering from poor mental health, Clare was attempting to return to his idealized first love, Mary, unaware that she had died three years earlier.
In 1995, with his life in crisis and his own mental health fragile, Robert decides to retrace Clare’s route along the Great North Road over a punishing four-day walk. As he walks he reflects on the changing landscape and on the evolving shape of his own family, on fatherhood and masculinity, and on the meaning of home.
Part memoir, part travel-writing, part literary criticism, A Length of Road is a deeply profound and poetic exploration of class, gender, grief and sexuality through the author’s own experiences and through the autobiographical writing of poet John Clare.