The Ponies At The Edge Of The World

A story of hope and belonging in Shetland

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Pub Date 19 May 2022 | Archive Date 2 Jul 2022

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'A meditation on connection between humans and animals, and the homes we make in wild places. I was completely immersed' Katherine May, bestselling author of Wintering

Catherine Munro transforms her life when she moves to Shetland to study the hardy ponies who call this archipelago home. Over the course of her first year, she is welcomed into the rhythms and routines that characterise life at the edge of the world.

When faced with personal loss, Catherine finds comfort and connection in the shared lives of the people, animals and wild landscapes of Shetland. The Ponies at the Edge of the World is a heartfelt love letter to the beauty and resilience of these magical ponies and their native land. This is a stunning book on community, hope and finding home.

'A meditation on connection between humans and animals, and the homes we make in wild places. I was completely immersed' Katherine May, bestselling author of Wintering

Catherine Munro transforms her...

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ISBN 9781846047268
PRICE £16.99 (GBP)

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Average rating from 19 members

Featured Reviews

Thank's to Netgalley I got to read a copy of this wonderful book!

It was fantastic to follow the author on her journey to build a new home in Shetland, where she'd decided to lead her thesis on the island's beloved ponies. She truly emphasises the importance of a back and forth relationship with our beautiful nature that gives us so much. Every page resonated with love and care, history and tradition. From the relationship she's built with the native islanders, with the ponies, the sheep, to the landscape and weather. Her approach to domestication is one that is gentle and understanding rather than violent and using strength. Catherine Munro highlights that it is possible and even preferable to raise animals in a place that is already theirs, where their instincts will be stronger (thanks to past generations who will pass down their knowledge to their little ones) all the while keeping in mind their deeper needs, only teaching them what is necessary and with profound respect.

I was glad to gain knowledge on a part of the world I knew next to nothing about but really wound up mesmerized by the loving exchanges between the different species bringing a true sense of symbiosis between man and nature. The author shares a beautiful journey to try and understand the island and all the living creatures that compose it.
Highly recommend it to anyone who enjoyed "Names for the Sea: Strangers in Iceland" by Sarah Moss. This is also not quite a travelogue, not quite a memoir but a pleasant and insightful mix of both!

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I really liked this book, I didn't have high expectations to start with but I pushed through and really got to enjoy it.

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I was drawn to read this book due to the title and the description. I have always been fascinated by the lives of the people that live in The Shetland Islands and the other Scottish highlands, as well as having a lifelong love of horses and ponies. I find with non- fiction that I prefer to read a hard copy as you get more of an experience that can be savoured with a pristine hard back copy, and I feel that this would have been the case with this book, as I read it on kindle as an advance review copy. It would make an excellent gift for others or yourself!
It can be described as part memoir, part nature book with vivid descriptions of the beautiful landscape and its inhabitants, bird life, sheep and of course, the Shetland Ponies. Additionally, the author shares how cathartic nature, animals, and friendship in the unlikeliest places can be when facing loss and sadness.
Thank you to Netgalley, the publisher and the author for the opportunity to review this advance e copy.

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Interesting and thought-provoking. I’ve never read anything like this before. I learnt so much about Shetland and Shetland ponies and animals and their interaction with humans. The writing was beautiful. Really enjoyable and very peaceful.

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Mesmeric, Soulful Account of Community: People, Other Animals, Landscape

Catherine Munro’s wondrous book is in a particular genre I adore, when it is done well. And this is. The genre is factual, often about history, the natural world, the arts – but what is special is that the author, however well researched and informative they are, observe their own involvement and engagement with the subject being written about,

This appears to me to be a particularly female approach (though there are of course also wonderful male writers who also engage in this way. Andrew Grieg and Robert MacFarlane spring immediately to mind.

Munro, in my mind, joins with Olivia Laing and Helen Macdonald, in her ability to write precisely and beautifully about place, inform and educate, but in a very dynamic and engaged manner. She herself is changed and expanded by her subject matter, and her readers become similarly engaged and present in relationship with the subject

Munro is an anthropologist by training. She has an affinity and connection with the Shetland Isles, and a fascination with its native animals, particularly Shetland ponies. Her PhD was specifically about the relationship between the islanders who breed and maintain the integrity of the ponies, and the animals they are fostering. For her research, she spent more than a year living on one of the islands, and visiting others to spend time with the pony communities – both the people and the equines. This is an account of all that, and of intense changes, both of loss, and of personal growth, which she found.

I particularly loved the section about healing horses – that is, horses healing humans. They are extraordinary animals, and, as pack animals, and prey animal, have evolved to be extremely sensitive to their surroundings and those within their community, whether other equines, or the people whom they connect with.

This is such a warm book, authentic and practical, and, wonderfully free from the merely sentimental.

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TW: Pregnancy Loss

Catherine moves to Shetland as part of research for her Ph.D., studying the relationships between animals and humans. This is a beautiful account of her time among the islanders, both human and animal.

The nature writing is exquisite, particularly the descriptions of the weather and sky. She introduces the reader to a range of Shetland wildlife and domestic animals; puffins, otters, seals, sheep, and of course Shetland ponies. We learn of the connections between the land and the people who live there and their relationships with their animals.

The Ponies at the Edge of the World is a celebration of the symbiotic relationship between animals and humans. The healing and restorative power of surrounding yourself in the natural world is a common thread throughout the book. I thoroughly enjoyed this read, although I hadn't realised before reading that the loss mentioned would be a miscarriage. As this is a sensitive topic for me, I skipped these pages - but this did not detract at all from my overall delight in the book.

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This was an absolute joy to read. It follows the authors experience spending one year in the shetlands to study the ponies as part of a PHD. She paints such a vivid picture of the landscape and the wildlife, but in addition she explores the relationships on the island. The relationships between the human islanders, giving the reader a real sense of community life which exists there, as well as the relationship between the islanders and the animals. The small population results in deeper connections between all. I could sense how safe and loved the islanders would have felt. I loved hearing about what each season brought and how the islanders and the animals adapt. I'm sure it would have been difficult to leave this behind after a year.

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A beautifully written book about the author's time in Shetland while writing a thesis on the island's ponies. From her first hesitant moments in her new home to learning all about the island, its inhabitants (both human and animal), and culture, it's a interesting insight to another place and world.

Her descriptions of the connection between the people, animals and nature are fascinating, showing how generations of sheep and ponies have learned how to survive the harsh conditions. Together with her sadness of losing a baby, there are some poignant moments.

Thank you to NetGalley, the publisher and the author for the chance to read this incredible story. Highly recommend.

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I very much enjoyed this book. I was tempted by the cover and the blurb and when you read that a book has been written by a PhD student, you are pretty much assured of good writing. I wasn't disappointed.

I'm not a horse person particularly, but I live close to an area where ponies roam freely so they are commonplace in the environment around me. I hoped that this book would not be exclusively based on the ponies but would be more a memoir style account of the experience living in the Shetland Isles - it is exactly that. There is an enormous sense of place, of the community that welcomed the writer and the nature and landscape around her. I loved the observations of wildlife - otters, seals and birdlife and also the story of the adopted lamb or caddy.

This is a great book to read. If you love the outdoors, it will make you want to immediately pack your bags and head off to a remote Scottish island. Highly recommended.

Thank you to NetGalley for an early copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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I so enjoyed this beautifully wise reflection on how the lives and existences of humans and animals are inextricably linked. Set on the wild, wind-blown hills of Shetland, this is a wonderful journey of exploration into the lives of Shetland ponies and the people that love them, care for them and breed them. It is such a celebration of man and nature existing together, her descriptions of the natural world so precise and vivid, it made me long to visit these remote and wild islands at the edge of the world.

Catherine Munro is living in Aberdeen, lurching from temporary job to temporary job, the stress of not knowing if she can pay the bills gradually eroding her spirit and soul. Eventually, her application to study for a doctorate is successful and she travels to the Shetland Island to study the eponymous ponies of the archipelago.

Her research into the ponies, into their heritage and lineage, into the ways they are known, respected and loved by the Shetlanders that breed and care for them, illuminates the sheer strength of character and personality of both the humans and animals that inhabit the rugged landscape.

Against Munro’s journey to understand the ponies is set her own desire to have a family. When tragedy hits it is the natural world and the animals that inhabit it that provide the comfort and hope she needs to move forward.

This work is written with such gentle humility, and yet expresses a mature wisdom that is both heartening and heartfelt. After reading it, I wanted to do nothing more than visit the islands, throw away my phone and immerse myself in the wild beauty of this magical place.

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