Underland and the Perils of Caves
My novel, Another Life, is a work of fiction with an invented story and characters, with just a few chapters based on personal experience, including a family visit to a cave system in the South of France. The tour was fully automated; we did not see a single person during the entire time, no doubt due to the torrential rainstorm. A lighting system guided us through the caves and tunnels, illuminating only the path and the chambers in which we stood, leaving preceding areas in complete darkness. Owing to the slippery conditions, we were unable to keep up and were plunged into darkness. It was one of the most frightening experiences of my life.
I was reminded of this while reading Robert MacFarlane’s Underland last year. As well as containing some of the finest prose I have read, it describes numerous cave systems, including the extensive catacombs of Paris and those under Odessa, stretching to fifteen hundred miles. The most memorable sections of the book describe negotiating dangerous, body-tight passages, leaving the reader tense and having to remind themselves that he lived to tell the tale.
Compare the protagonist’s experience in Another Life with that of Robert MacFarlane. You will be entertained but may never want to enter a cave again.