Let’s face it, East London (and particularly Hackney) has been overmapped. It has been pulled apart, placed under the microscope and jammed back together. It seems there is little space for a writer who wishes to write about it. This makes Marshland a very pleasant surprise indeed.
Rather than focussing on the urban sprawl, Rees’ shifts attention to ‘the edge of London’: the wild greenbands of Hackney, Walthamstow and Leyton Marshes which has, relative to the rest of London, remained remarkably untouched… until, that is, the Olympics was announced.
The marshes are perfect ground for the rampant gestation of weird little histories and myths, a world were outsiders can roam free from the glare of authorities. Escaping the pressures of family life, Rees takes his dog Hendrix on daily walks around the marshes, and its these walks the book is framed around. His anecdotal experiences are strange enough. He stumbles across sex games, pilled up ravers on their low ebb, and a whole host of odd interactions with others seeking refuge in the city’s wilderness.