Graham Robb was born in Manchester in 1958 and is a former Fellow of Exeter College, Oxford. He has published widely on French literature and history. His 2007 book The Discovery of France won both the Duff Cooper and Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prizes. For Parisians (2010) the City of Paris awarded him the Grande Medaille de la Ville de Paris. He lives on the English-Scottish border.
This story is packed with enough mystery, violence, romance, and personal discovery to satisfy any fan of Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, or - for that matter-Bill Bryson . . . Both timely and timeless. * Village Voice * Rising from this roving, poetic account, which dips in and out of memoir, anecdote and history, is a sense of loosely documented but fierce regional drama . . . Throughout, Robb unpicks ballads and legends - the stuff of old propaganda - with a warm but pleasingly sceptical approach. His search throws up surprises. Reading this book at times resembles a ramble through richly tangled terrain with a guide who is joyously diverted by discovery . . . Its paths deserve to be retaken slowly, chapter by chapter - but the walk is always worthwhile. -- Jenny McCartney * Mail on Sunday * It is three-parts history (as you would expect of Robb's historical pedigree) and one-part nature writing. A vision of a marginal place (or at least marginal to the urban centres, not to itself of course) through time, written against a backdrop of both the 2014 independence referendum and the 2016 Brexit vote -- Teddy Jamieson * Herald (Scotland) * Innovative methodology, rejection of mythology, precise expression . . . such a wonderful book -- Harry McGrath * Scottish Review of Books * Travelogue, history and elucidation, this book is one of timely exploration. Going backwards, it goes forwards and there are many felicities along the way . . . The Debatable Land has excellent illustrations and indices. Elegant and with learning lightly worn, it is, in every respect, an exemplary and topical book, a perfect paradigm of its kind. -- Ross Leckie * Country Life * An original and surprising book . . . he ranges with admirable ease over the centuries . . . Robb doesn't move far from his new home, yet this is a travel book, with a journey in time as well as space . . . the twists and turns of imagined and reimagined history brood over this richly wonderful book -- Allan Massie * The Oldie * Graham Robb, apart from being a distinguished historian, biographer and literary critic, is one of our most accomplished travel writers . . . he bicycles with the speed and ferocity of a Scottish reiver through these lost flatlands of history -- Hugh Thomson * Spectator * Diverting asides animate Robb's revelatory account of this oft-overlooked and understudied part of the United Kingdom . . . The Debatable Land ends with a brace of discoveries. The first is a key to understanding Ptolemy's second-century map of Britain, hitherto thought inaccurate, which will surely be invaluable to future historians. The second is the earliest account told from a British point of view of a major battle in these islands. This is all fascinating. -- Alan Taylor * Literary Review * This is a book written as much on the road as in the library . . . Robb's book is both a scholarly work of revisionism and an entertaining read . . . One of the pleasures of this book is to watch Robb, like a frontier dodging reiver, slip between past and present, between manuscript and moor, between battlefield site and the 127 bus -- Michael Kerr * Daily Telegraph * It's a book worth reading . . . it contains several glories, much fine writing and the odd (very odd) wonder. -- Andrew Marr * Sunday Times * Scholarly nonfiction written with novelistic flair . . . The Debatable Land was neither English nor Scottish but a law unto itself, and it became notorious as the centre of reiver violence . . . But Robb, like a conjuror, gradually shows us the Debatable Land as something else . . . his exploration of its history is punctuated by some terrific nature writing * Observer * A detective outing on native soil. Armed with energy, humour, a poet's eye and a bicycle - all things his fans will be familiar with - Robb probes the received wisdoms of the past . . . His skill as a writer is to understand, without being fey, the fourth dimension: peeling back the modern landscape to find buried stories * The Times * Graham Robb is a remarkable writer . . . [his work] displays curiosity, intellectual vitality, wide-ranging sympathies, and a keen eye for unexpected detail. This new book will fascinate everyone with a knowledge of the geography, history, mythology and character of the Anglo-Scottish borderlands . . . No short review can do justice to the intelligence, charm, variety and sheer interest of this book. Read it, and you will be richly entertained and enlightened. * The Scotsman * Sorting out the fact from the fiction in this history is one of Robb's tasks. He tackles some serious misconceptions about the borderland . . . Robb intercuts the past and present, the intimate and the impersonal, to wonderful effect. Few authors write so well about things lost and neglected - or have such sharp ears and eyes for the natural world -- Ian Jack * Guardian *