A Review of The Instant by Amy Liptrot

Amy Liptrot is an author who burst onto the literary scene in 2016 with a remarkable debut called The Outrun, a narrative nonfiction work on surviving addiction, childhood and loneliness mostly set on the bleakly beautiful Scottish island of Orkney where the writer grew up.  I loved it.

Wiki says of The Outrun:

Liptrot’s prize-winning book has been translated into more than a dozen languages, hit The Sunday Times’ top ten bestsellers list and sold over 110,000 copies in the U.K. It has been added to publisher Canongate’s “modern classics” list.

Not bad for a first book.  Also there is a film being made with Saoirse Ronan playing the author.

Liptrot has this marvellous descriptive, unselfpitying style of writing which hits with the immediacy of poetry.    She also spends a huge amount of time on the internet – especially on the NASA website moonwatching –  but manages to combine the digital worlds and the natural worlds in a way that makes the two seem not quite so incompatible as they often seem to me.

Maybe it was in some way inevitable that after such a galactic debut, the sequel would be a bit of a disappointment.

The Instant was published in 2022 and covers the period in Liptrot’s life after the first book, when she spent a year in Berlin seeking work, friendship, relationships, direction.  We’ve all been there.  But not everyone observes as closely as this.  Even in the middle of the busy city of  Berlin, nature is at the forefront of the author’s awareness. And the moon.

“I run a bath, consult my digital charts, then wait for the moon.  My bath is next to the window and I open it wide to the cool air.  I hear stray cats mewing in the stairwell, magpies rattling in the bare trees and the indistinct rumble of the city that reminds me of the wind back home”

I did enjoy The Instant which is structured as a series of essays rather than as a single narrative but somehow for me it lacked the emotional truth of the first book.    And some of the writing felt earlier, as if it had been retrieved from earlier essays and articles, because of the need to produce a sequel.


I will be back on Monday taking part in Week 3 of Nonfiction November which is hosted by

Thanks to everyone who has taken part in the challenge so far.