Philip Marsden portrait pic

Philip Marsden

Philip Marsden is the award-winning author of a number of works of travel, fiction and non-fiction, including The Bronski House, The Spirit-Wrestlers, The Levelling Sea and, most recently, Rising Ground (Granta, 2014). He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and his work has been translated into fifteen languages. After years of travelling, he now lives on the tidal upper reaches of the River Fal in Cornwall with his wife, children and various boats.

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Philip Marsden


Rising Ground: A Search for the Spirit of Place

Rising Ground book cover

'‘Fascinating and hauntingly evocative... Philip Marsden has written a truly wonderful and enjoyable book"

Jan Morris, Literary Review

'With an astonishingly keen eye for detail and a beguiling gift for the description of landscape... This is an extraordinary, complex and fascinating book. It is not just about Cornwall; it is also about the human endeavour to make meaning of life'

Justin Cartwright, Spectator

Why do we react so strongly to certain places? Why do layers of mythology build up around particular features in the landscape? When Philip Marsden moved to a remote creekside farmhouse in Cornwall, the intensity of his response took him aback. It led him to begin exploring these questions, prompting a journey westwards to Land's End through one of the most fascinating regions of Europe.

From the Neolithic ritual landscape of Bodmin Moor to the Arthurian traditions of Tintagel, from the mysterious china-clay country to the granite tors and tombs of the far south-west, Marsden assembles a chronology of our shifting attitudes to place. In archives, he uncovers the life and work of other 'topophiles' before him - medieval chroniclers and Tudor topographers, eighteenth-century antiquarians, post-industrial poets and abstract painters. Drawing also on his own travels overseas, Marsden reveals that the shape of the land lies not just at the heart of our history but of man's perennial struggle to belong on this earth.

The Leveling Sea: The Story of a Cornish Haven in the Age of Sail

The Leveling Sea book cover

'Simply a splendid book... Marsden’s writing is delightfully honed as well as being profoundly well-researched. The Levelling Sea is a microcosm of British history, contained within its covers like a ship in a bottle. From horrifying tales of “flogging round the fleet”, to the triumphant revolutions of boat design, Marsden takes a spyglass to the past and shows us it in vivid colour. Convincing in its detail and exciting in its sweep, this portrait of a port and its people sails deep into the reader’s imagination. The story of Britain’s colourful maritime past seen through the changing fortunes of the Cornish port of Falmouth.'

Philip Hoare, Sunday Telegraph.

'Outstanding... His pitch-perfect feel for a phrase, plus a gift as sublime as James Hamilton-Patterson or Jonathan Raban's for describing water lifts The Levelling Sea far above ordinary history towards a state closer to poetry.'

Bella Bathurst, Sunday Times

Within the space of few years, during the 1560s and 1570s, a maritime revolution took place in England that would contribute more than anything to the transformation of the country from a small rebel state on the fringes of Europe into a world power. Until then, it was said, there was only one Englishman capable of sailing across the Atlantic. Yet within ten years an English ship with an English crew was circumnavigating the world. At the same time in Cornwall, in the Fal estuary, just a single building – a lime kiln – existed where the port of Falmouth would emerge. Yet by the end of the eighteenth century, Falmouth would be one of the busiest harbours in the world. ‘The Levelling Sea’ uses the story of Falmouth’s spectacular rise and fall to explore wider questions about the sea and its place in history and imagination. Drawing on his own deep connection with Cornwall, award-winning author Philip Marsden writes unforgettably about the power of the sea and its ability to produce greed on a piratical scale, dizzying corruption, and grand and tragic aspirations.