The Script from Kathleen Kinder’s talk
I extend a warm welcome to everyone watching and listening, wherever you are. I’ll speak around 60 minutes with time for questions afterwards. This is the second Zoom talk on the Modern Book Scene. I thank the Settle library management committee for their continued support, particularly, Hazel Allen, for organising the event and agreeing to put the Talk notes online as last time, settlelibrary.org.uk and this time recording it online as well.
Thank you also to friends who have helped with the publicity. During the lock-down I’ve been able to borrow from the NY library service the e-books I needed. There are library copies of all of the modern books discussed (except for one – I’ll explain later). Libraries are now open nationally & printed books can be borrowed again.
Project Gutenberg. I am also recommending a few free books you can download. Go to the web-site gutenberg.org. On the Home page select Find Free Books/Search & Browse/Quick Search. Write the title. Select the book from the list and the format, epub if you have the app. or html. I have chosen those pre 1925 © books to enrich our appreciation of modern book origins. It is one way we study and enjoy our literary heritage, to show how techniques, topics, attitudes etc develop over the centuries. We are enriched by our past. Try to silence it, as sometimes happens in a secular environment (my experience), then cultural impoverishment is a real possibility.
I interpret “The Modern Book Scene” as books published in the last 10-20 years, a few as recently as a few weeks ago. The emphasis is on books that have been in a prize list, have stirred up discussion and controversy, and which reflect current interests amongst the general public. I hope also to provide for local library interests, having worked as a volunteer in the Settle library for 3 years, and having oversight of our 14 Book Groups, as they were before lock down.
I have more to say on some books than on others. Most are fiction, a few non fiction. Mixed genre books feature several themes in one volume, For example, historical fiction can be the backdrop to feminist issues, slavery, romance and murder. I end with books that encourage “ a feel good factor”, fiction and non fiction.
Murder, Mystery and Thrillers – the largest fiction group
I include in this Group, one book that features mystery, intrigue but no murder. There is great variety here. I begin with a book which I consider a classic murder mystery. The Dry by Jane Harper, an Australian author. Published in 2016, this book has won many international awards,(New York & Sunday Times) and sold over a million copies worldwide. The main character Aaron Falk, a federal police investigator, has returned to his Australian outback home town of Kiewarra to attend the funeral of his best friend, Luke, who is thought to have committed suicide after murdering his wife and child. Falk returns to the town during the worst period of drought the area has suffered for years. He soon finds himself drawn into a claustrophobic web of hatred and lies. The plot is cleverly managed. After overcoming the suspicion which surrounds him, Falk proves to be a skilful investigator. The reader’s attention is held to the very end & this is one of the best murder mysteries I have ever read.
Nordic Noir Murder Mysteries. These are good translations into English, very popular throughout Europe. Before Icelandic thriller writers joined with those from Norway, Finland and Sweden, these murder mysteries were called Scandi Noir and they certainly are dark. Considering how the terrible heat and drought intensify the atmosphere in the Jane Harper novel, I then thought of the 3 Nordic Noir novels I’ve read where near Arctic conditions of intense winter cold and lack of sunlight add to the horror and suspense, while the perpetual daylight during the summer months does not help either.
1.Firewall: Henning Mankell 2008 (Swedish). This is the first of the Inspector Kurt Wallander books, (recent series on TV ). It begins dramatically. A man about to use a town cash machine, falls down dead. Two teenage girls murder a taxi driver; one girl disappears. The horror intensifies when there is a complete blackout throughout the area. This was my first encounter with the use of cyber crime in a murder mystery. That hyped up the atmosphere even more. Inspector Wallander has a lot on his hands and of course, he sorts it all out brilliantly. “A very good novel”. That’s the note in my little Red Book.
2.Reykjavik Nights Arnaldur Indridason 2014,who is called “ King of Icelandic crime”. This is the prequel, or first in a series of crime novels, now world famous, featuring Inspector Erlandur, although in this prequel he has just joined the police force as a night traffic officer. He has a particular concern for missing persons and it is that which leads him to the trail of murderers lurking in the city’s dark underworld. The author paints a vivid, warm picture of the Icelanders , their culture and extraordinary environment – volcanoes & glaciers. The atmosphere is unique. I hope to read more, eventually.
3.The Second Deadly Sin, 2014, woman novelist, Asa Larsson,(Swedish). The Arctic location is the north of Sweden. This is the 5th novel to feature female investigator Rebecka Martinsson. It has all the ingredients of an accomplished Scandi noir novel with a well-paced plot, good characterisation, a budding love relationship and a terrifying episode with a bear. It begins with the murder of a woman in her home. Note on the novel in my little Red Book -“good but grim”.
Sunday Times Best Seller – Magpie Murders – Anthony Horowitz 2017. This is the first of two books to feature character, Susan Ryeland, crime editor of Clover Leaf Books, investigator of murder mysteries. It has a double story interest. The first novel” within a novel is reminiscent of Agatha Christie and is an Atticus Pund murder mystery by the fictional author, Alan Conway. The murder of the housekeeper is supposedly solved by the end, but who killed Sir Marcus Pye? The final chapter is missing. Susan Ryeland begins the second novel by considering the suspects in the first, but then Alan Conway is mysteriously killed. Who is his murderer? The book is over twice the normal size simply because there are 2 in 1. The two novels are given different typesets in the printed edition. The double novel is cleverly written and is one for the specialist lover of crime fiction to enjoy. (U3A Crime Novel Book Group) Moonflower Murders , its sequel, was published late 2020. I have just begun to read it!
Novel by a popular TV Presenter. The Thursday Murder Club , Richard Osman, 2020, appears to be one of the most sought after murder mystery novels. A friend kindly offered me her printed copy to read, as I was 95th in the queue for 34 e-books! The sentences and chapters are short, giving the writing style a jerky, staccato effect. It was a good idea to have in a retirement village, an informal club whose 4 members have qualifications, suited to the task of murder investigation, although their relationship with the police when a murder has been committed, is rather odd The book is funny in places and I enjoyed about 2/3rds of it. Then the author lost the plot, too many red herrings and a sub plot to add to the mix. However…..
“Does the punishment fit the crime?” was a question I asked the next 2 novels, which initially were choices of 2 members of my Book Group. One of the values of a Book Group is you often appreciate choices that are not yours, and it was so in both these cases.
- Burial Rites, Hannah Kent, 2013. This novel is based on a true account from Icelandic records of a young woman, Agnes Magnusdottir, who, in 1828 it was “believed” by the district supervisor to be complicit with 2 others, in the murder of her employer ,Natan Ketilson. Agnes was sentenced to death by beheading. She was sent to live with a family, a husband, wife and 2 daughters. until her sentence could be carried out. At first, the family were terrified of her, but as the weeks went by, she proved to be utterly docile. She was intelligent, caring, gifted and a hard worker . Before she had to face death, Agnes told Margret, the mother, what really happened to the murdered man, who in life, was a cruel, vindictive character who raped the girls who worked for him, and who were referred to as “whores” in the trial. The family are torn with grief as Agnes is taken away. This is a gripping story, beautifully told against the poverty of the people, the background of a stern Protestantism and the unforgiving Icelandic climate. You will not put the book down until you have read it. Was Justice done?
- Apple Tree Yard- Louise Doughty, 2014. Written in the first person by Yvonne Carmichael and addressed to “X”, her partner in crime. She recalls the series of events which put them both in the dock accused of murder. The modern location is central London. Yvonne, a highly qualified scientist is “happily married”, so she says, with 2 teenage children. One day, as she leaves her office, she is drawn into conversation with a man who is watching her in the street. She accepts his invitation to look at the chapel underneath the Palace of Westminster where the first act of consensual sex takes place, something that had been missing from her own marriage for 2 years.
Over the next few weeks, this act is repeated in various locations of which Apple Tree Yard is one. Matters come to a head when after a party, she is raped by a colleague, George Craddock, who calls her a whore and reveals he knows of her liaison with X. Later she tells X, “Something will have to be done about GC”, and X, alias Mark Costley, who turns out to be a serial sexual predator, kills GC. The court’s verdict is that X is given a number of years in prison, while Yvonne has just 6 months, after which Guy, her husband, who also had had an affair, and her children, welcome her home . Nearly at the end of the book, Yvonne recalls a remark made to X, which if it had been revealed in the trial would have given her many more years in gaol, and reduced Mark’s sentence considerably. Was justice done? A squalid tale? No, a brilliantly written moral tale, worthy of a Shakespeare tragedy, and Yvonne, a Lady Macbeth.
Mystery – no murder It is time, after all that gloom, for a novel with a “feel good factor”, that ends with a love relationship and one that has all the mystery solved. Well, not quite!
The Cleaner of Chartres , Sally Vickers, 2007 (some may know it). On St Agnes Day, in modern times, in the French cathedral city of Chartres, a baby girl is found abandoned in a basket with an earring beside her. Her origins are a mystery. She is given the name Agnes and is brought up by nuns. Later, as she works in an orchard, she is raped and gives birth to a baby boy she calls Gabriel. The baby is removed for adoption. The loss affects Agnes deeply and disturbs her mental and emotional equilibrium. She then works as a cleaner for Mme Bec, one of 2 friends, who are gossipy, nasty old ladies, but the real joy of Agnes’ life is being able to work as a cleaner in the magnificent, ancient cathedral where she meets and falls in love with Alain, who is a craftsman restoring the cathedral’s medieval stonework. It is the mellow, peaceful presence of the great cathedral presiding over human activity which gives hope that “all will be well” (Julian of Norwich). At the end, in a clever and amusing twist of the plot, the identity of Agnes’ mother is revealed and the second earring recovered. Alain and Agnes have their own baby son, but Agnes to her sorrow, never finds Gabriel. A delightful book, one to enjoy.
A Spy Novel (not attempted before) & the biography of a Spy.
Restless, William Boyd winner of the Costa Book prize, 2006. This is a classic spy novel , an utterly absorbing page turner. During the summer of 1976, Ruth Martin discovers that her seemingly English and reclusive mother Sally , is really a Russian emigrée, Eva Delectorskeya, who was a spy for the British during WW11. Recruited in 1939, aged 29 and a beauty, Eva is trained by the enigmatic Lucas Romer to be the perfect spy, covering up her tracks and disappearing when she suspects discovery. She has to hide her emotions and trust no one, not even Romer with whom she has an affair. It is after this that she begins to have suspicions of the presence of a double agent, a traitor in the team, who has compromised her. This time, in her late middle age, she needs her daughter’s help to give the traitor his just deserts and does she succeed? This is a powerful novel with a fast moving, evolving plot. A compelling “read”, as we say. Next, a biog.
A Woman of No Importance, Sonia Purnell, 2019. Most people know of Odette, the woman spy ,who survived torture by the Nazis during WW11. Very few have heard of the wealthy American, Virginia Hall who also worked as a spy for the British & Americans during WW11. After the war, she received the highest awards for bravery from the British, Americans and French, but Virginia wished for anonymity. Her story remained untold until Sonia Purnell, an accomplished biographer, wrote it down. Virginia was regarded by the Germans as the most dangerous enemy spy. The Gestapo longed to get hold of her, but never did. Amazingly, Virginia was disabled. She lost a leg in a shooting accident before the war and managed very well with a prosthetic leg. She was a master of disguises, constantly outwitting the Gestapo. On her retirement in the USA, she married her lover & colleague, Paul. She had difficulty at first, in persuading the CIA to employ her because she was a woman. She died in 1982, aged 76. A thrilling book, and you will not put it down until you have read it. Master of disguises led me to think of 2 books which I first read in my teenage years and which I downloaded from gutenberg.org by entering each title on the Quick Search line. (new discovery)
The Four Feathers A.E. W. Mason, 1901, (Harry Feversham) and The Scarlett Pimpernel. 1905, Baroness Orczy (Sir Percy Blakeney).
One Novel & the Effects of Social Deprivation & Alcoholism
Shuggie Bain – Douglas Stuart, winner of the Booker Prize 2020. I saw a TV interview with the author, who admitted the book was partly autobiographical and it took him 10 years to write. I’m not surprised; it is a magnificent achievement. The location is the tenement slums of south Glasgow in the 1980s, during the miners’ strike, no work in the dockyards and steel industry. Shuggie (slang for Hugh)Bain lives with his alcoholic mother Agnes, older brother Leek and sister Catherine. His father is about to move out at the beginning of the book and gradually, his siblings follow suit. Only Shuggie remains to cope with his mother’s drink problems, her violence, unpredictability, mood swings and money for drink, but not food. Shuggie is not like other boys, who call him a “pouf”, but he stays with his mother, caring for her to the very end. He copes with her death with amazing resilience, leaving us with the conviction that he will survive to fashion his own life and cope well with whatever lies ahead. A deeply moving book.
3 Novels & A True account of the Effects of War and Conflict
A Long Petal of the Sea, Isabel Allende, 2020. – a highly regarded author, born in Peru, but most associated with Chile. The book is an excellent translation from the Spanish. It is about Victor Dalmain, a young Spanish doctor whose family are caught up in the tragedies of the Spanish Civil War. He, together with Rosa, his widowed sister in law whom he marries for convenience, but later grows to love, flee from Barcelona to exile in Chile. The book follows the lives of 4 generations of displaced persons forced to flee, first from repression in Spain and then in Chile, The story describes the political developments in Spain to the death of Franco, to the beginning of WW11 and in Chile, to the fall of Pinochet 1990. The book has received many international plaudits. At the end, as the characters pick up the pieces of their lives, they are determined to look forward with positive hope for the future. It is a great book; I loved it and there are plenty of library copies…
Guernica- Dave Boling, 2009, 1 library copy, The book follows the lives and experiences of 2 families who lived in this coastal town in Northern. Spain before and after the devastating 1937 bombing by the German Luftwaffe during the Spanish Civll war . The bombing which destroyed most of the town and killed thousands of people was all the more horrific because Guernica had no strategic importance. whatsoever. It was a rehearsal by the German Luftwaffe for the WW11 London blitz. Picasso, who appears briefly in the novel, painted his famous picture Guernica, which describes the horror graphically. When the picture was on display in Paris, a German officer asked Picasso if it was his work. And his reply: “No. it’s yours”.
The Garden of Evening Mists, Tan Twan Eng 2012. The author is a Malay who lives in Penang. He is a master of English in all its variety and I am in awe at his achievement This, his second book, has received several awards, not only in the West ,but in the Far East . As English is a lingua franca, literate people can download this book as an e-book, anywhere, because there are a million copies available. Look it up on the library web site (brown cover). NY library has “always available”. Because of the book’s importance, it is probably used as a global textbook. This surely provides a world-wide extension of English literary skills. Book groups world-wide whose members have tablets or i-pads have instant access to this reading material. It is a wonderful book to read with plenty of issues to discuss. You could, of course, discuss it on Zoom internationally. There are, I’m afraid, just 3 printed copies in the library. Why? Here is a bit about the fictional plot and its characters. Teoh Yun Ling is the main character and first person narrator. She is a law graduate, trained in Cambridge, only the second woman to be a supreme judge in Malaya. Now beginning to suffer from a degenerative disease she is about to take early retirement.
The book draws on her memories of her experiences, people, war and events. ”Memories I had locked away have begun to break free, like shards of ice fracturing off an arctic shelf. In sleep, these broken floes drift towards the morning light of remembrance..” That is just an example of the author’s beautiful English. Teoh returns to the Cameroon Highlands to live and recalls how she first went there to become an apprentice to Arimoto, famous Japanese gardener, who had offered to teach Teoh how to create a Japanese garden in memory of her sister, who had died as a result of being in a Japanese POW camp, where Teoh too had lost some fingers. The book is packed full of remembrances, some sad, some horrific to do with the war, some joyous, some quite lovely, all vividly described and told, and making the reading experience a truly memorable one.
Endell Street Wendy Moore late 2020, causing a lot of interest.
This is the first, fully referenced account of the WW1 military hospital, staffed entirely by women, who were surgeons, anaesthetists physicians, nurses and ancillary staff,the only man, the policeman on guard at the entrance. In 1914, at the beginning of the War, the opposition in England to women doctors running a hospital for male casualties was total. Women who had been trained as doctors since the 1860s, had only ever worked with children and women.
The French, beginning to be overwhelmed by the casualties at the Front, accepted the offer of a group of women doctors and nurses led by a surgeon, Louisa Garrett Anderson, daughter of the first woman doctor, Elizabeth G.A. and her close friend and anaesthetist, Flora Murray. The women set up a hospital in Claridges Hotel in Paris. The women had never dealt with male patients before, never mind the horrific injuries sustained by many of them. Most of the women were from upper class families in Britain and had been suffragettes. The battle front moved closer to Paris, and there were more and more casualties. The women knew they had to leave. In 1915, the British authorities, impressed by the excellent reports of the women’s hospital in Paris, offered the women a disused building in Endell Street, near Covent Garden, to convert into a military hospital. This is what they did. The outstanding care the men received became legendary, and wounded men asked to go the Endell St. Hospital!
After treating over 24,000 men in 4 years, Endell Street Hospital was dismantled in 1919. Doctors, who were former soldiers and officers, took the places of the dedicated and now highly skilled women staff, who were told to go back to looking after women and children, or to their “place” in the home. I found myself sharing the anger of the author, anger which spilled off the pages as I was reading, that there was no attempt by the men to learn about the new amputation methods women surgeons had developed, nor how women anaesthetists learnt to use ether and chloroform more efficiently. Male surgeons, anaesthetists and physicians simply picked up where they had left off in 1914. Women were to understand that they had merely been stop gaps, and they were thanked. Male doctors would catch up quickly. Was it not so that men had larger brains than women, and women anyway should not be allowed to see or deal with men’s naked bodies…..? . More online, youtube, photos. This book has not been out long and in the library, there are 2 e-books, 2 large print books, 1 CD, and 1 e-Audiobook. We need to ask for some standard print hbks and pbks. I was so impressed with the book; I bought a copy. That led me to download from Gutenberg..
The Subjection of Women, essay by John Stuart Mill, 1869,
This was written when women were first trained as doctors. Florence Nightingale had been celebrated for her work in the Crimea. Victoria was on the throne. There were already outstanding women writers, but women were corseted into gigantic crinoline cages,- always fainting & were regarded as feeble. John Stuart Mill wrote of an experiment where the brain of a man and one of a woman had been weighed, and the woman’s brain was found to be larger and 8 heavier! John Stuart Mill’s view was that since women’s inferior status had never been proven, there was no case for subjection. Views on the subjection of women came from 2 sources, ancient Greece and an ancient Hebrew myth, used by the 3 Abrahamic faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and which persists in their conservative branches. In Gen 3,16, God says to Eve, “Your husband….shall rule over you..” Polygamy may still be practised in some parts of Africa, to uphold tribal status, and continuation of family lines. In Mormonism (sub Christian sect), monogamy has been in the main US church since 1890, but polygamy could return. Joseph Smith,- 43 wives; Brigholm Young, 53 wives & 55 children, but Solomon, 700, OT, 1K11 (wealth).
Six Books to support what I have just said – 3f+3nf
Man of Property, John Galsworthy, 1906. Gutbg. wife as property. Riders of the Purple Sage, Zane Grey,1904 Gutbg.3rd Mormon wife. Stay with me, Ayobami Adebayo, 2017, polygamy in modern Nigeria.
Educated, Tara Westover, 2018, Mormon to Cambridge University Unorthodox, Deborah Feldman, 2012, rejection of Hasidic Judaism. Infidel, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, 2006, from Islam to atheism. See Youtube videos
Katarina Luther, Anne Boileau, 2016 (based on fact, not in the library)
This is one of several books written about Katarina von Bora, the wife of Martin Luther, to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation in 1517. Suddenly, after all these centuries, the importance of this lady is at last being recognised & celebrated.
Katarina, b. 1499, was put in a convent when she was 5 by her stepmother and there she stayed, taking her vows as a nun when she was 15. She was quite a scholar and assumed a teaching role in the convent. Luther’s writings were smuggled in. Katarina and some others read them avidly, especially the paper calling monks and nuns to come out of their cloisters to marry and lead a normal life. The nuns wrote to Luther who arranged for the man who brought salted herrings to the convent to hide the nuns in the empty barrels on his return to Wittenberg where Luther lived. Soon 5 dishevelled nuns smelling of old kippers arrived . One of Luther’s students wrote. “A wagon load of vestal virgins has just come to town, all more eager for marriage than for life. God grant them husbands, lest worse befall”. Four of the five were soon settled. Only Katarina remained. She went to the household of a friend of Luther’s to teach the children, and do housework. Luther, an Augustinian monk, was worried after she had turned down 2 offers of marriage. She then told him, she would marry him. Luther wrote to a friend,”If I marry, it would please my father, rile the pope, cause the angels to laugh and the devils to weep.”
He accepted her proposal; he was 42, she 26,(not pretty, he, unkempt & overweight). Luther invited her to meet his students who were in a theological debate. When Katarina joined in, Luther sternly rebuked her and said a woman had no part in men’s talk. She got up and walked out, but hung around outside till he was free. She then told him in no uncertain way that if he did not treat her as an equal, she would not marry him. No Old Testament subordination for her!
Luther was intrigued by this feisty lady who knew her NT and St Paul’s greeting to women as his “partners” in Christ. Luther apologised. After marriage, they fell in love, had 6 children. She was his ”lord Katy”. Each morning, he liked to see her “pigtails on the pillow”. Katarina was known as “the female doctor”, or “the Lutheress”. She was a tireless worker, created a student hostel, brewed beer, grew vegetables, ran the farm business and opened a hospital for plague victims. Luther admitted she “sometimes” advised him on church matters. We must ask for library books about her if only to show that the OT subjection of women, no longer applies, and should never have done so in the first place. (Kindle £3.99)
“Feel good Factor” books.- romance, family and natural world
The Girl from the Tanner’s Yard, Diane Allen, 2020. This book was in the shortlist for the RNA’s award for the prize for the best Romance Saga Novel, 2021. Diane Allen is a local author from LP, and we congratulate her on her achievement. The story, based in the 1850s, is located in the bleak moorland near Haworth. I was impressed by the vivid description of the poverty of the people trying to scrape a subsistence living in this beautiful, but unforgiving landscape. We also read of the enormous problems encountered by parents trying to bring up increasingly large families. As you would expect, there is considerable Bronte influence. The heroine, Lucy, like Jane Eyre, is quite a bit younger than the hero, Adam, but unlike Rochester and Jane, Adam is handsome and Lucy pretty. As in the novel, Jane Eyre, this has a happy ending, not only for Lucy and Adam but for other struggling family members. A very pleasant “read”. Thank you, Diane.
This Love Dani Atkins, This novel won the RNA Award for the best Romance novel of 2018. The story begins dramatically when a fire destroys the flat where the heroine Sophie lives. She is rescued by a stranger, Ben, who offers the homeless Sophie the basement flat in his house. The love relationship develops slowly. There is a “high incidence of coincidence”, to move on the story. We become aware that there is a mystery surrounding Ben, which slowly comes to light . If sadness is there, then we are reminded that true love lasts till death do us part and that comes for some, earlier than for others. A well-written, thought-provoking novel.
All the Lonely People, Mike Gayle 2021, who has won the RNA’s 2021 Outstanding Achievement Award. Of W. Indian heritage, Mike is an established author of light romance fiction (ladlit) The novel tackles the prejudice a mixed race marriage encounters, family tragedies, & loneliness. A young, single mum Ashleigh befriends an 84 year old widower Hubert. There are time switches into Hubert’s past, his family life, and his present lonely situation. The sadness is matched by the warmth and joy of new multi-racial friendships. There is much to commend in this book which breaks into an area where the light romance fiction genre has not ventured before,- very apt for now.
The Other Bennet Sister Jane Hadlow 2020 This is one of several modern re-takes or extensions of a Jane Austen novel, and is a very good one. The novelist aims by a series of makeovers and relationships to transform Mary, the plain, intellectual, boring, left on the shelf Bennet sister, into an acceptable, romantic heroine attracting at least one or maybe two, suitors. The novelist succeeds very well,- ugly duckling into a presentable swan. I was impressed by the style, modelled convincingly on that of P&P, but yet quite modern.
I did have one concern; the makeover of Mr Collins’ character into a studious, caring scholar who was a great help to Mary, is not entirely convincing. However, the dialogue between Mary and the hero Tom Hayward is every bit as accomplished as that between Darcy, Elizabeth and other characters in P&P. There is of course, a happy ending to a very enjoyable novel, a really good one.
Miss Austen, Gill Hornsby 2020, a good, well-written, semi-novel re. Cassandra Austen, d.1845, Jane’s older sister who was her life-long companion and who out-lived Jane (d.1817) by many years. I really enjoyed this book. As far as the narrative is concerned, it is a slow-burner, but is never dull, with a lot of fascinating insights into the lives of Austen family members. A good follow on from the previous book.
Books about Enjoying The Natural World- last section.
Wildwood – a Journey Through Trees, Roger Deakin 2008, who died soon after this classic was written. I love trees and enjoy sitting in their presence, watching and listening to what goes on in them and around them, a very restful occupation. In the book, the author weaves together the cultural associations and the natural world which trees inhabit. The author takes us from the trees in Suffolk where he lives, to experience the trees in the New Forest, the Wye Valley and the Forest of Dean. Then we are transported overseas to the distinctive species of trees in the Pyrenees of France, Poland, Lesbos island, Kyrgyzstan and Australia. I remember listening to and watching a kookaburra in a eucalyptus in a friend’s garden on the edge of the Blue Mts, in Australia, 1992. I’m sorry the author did not get to the great redwood forests of California. I remember in 1985 being driven by friends in a motorhome, right through an archway- tunnel formed by the massive roots of a giant sequoia . A great experience.
Rootbound – Rewilding a Life. Alice Vincent, 2020 This is a first person, autobiographical account written in a beautiful lyrical style, rich in imagery as the author describes her experience with plants and flowers, first enjoyed in her grandfather’s garden. She writes of their history and of the famous gardeners who introduced and nurtured them. Interspersed with these rich passages of prose are the poignant accounts of how keenly she felt the loss of a much loved husband who suddenly announced that he did not wish to be married any more.
Eventually the darkness and loss are lessened with the therapy of gardening, and even more so when she meets Matt. The relationship develops slowly and gradually. By the end of the book, the reader feels that the author’s pain and loss are being replaced by a new-found happiness, a healing brought about not only by the new relationship, but by the flowers and plants which so enrich her life.
Brief Mention – authors recommended by friends, plenty of copies
Sightlines Kathleen Jamie, 2012 – The author a well-known Scottish poet writes beautiful prose which brings to mind vividly the remote places she visits, the wildlife and habitats she encounters, mostly northern, killer whales & seals, Greenland icebergs, St Kilda.
The Stubborn Light of Things- a Nature diary – Melissa Harrison, 2020, Times writer of the monthly nature notes. Keen observational skills ability to express what she sees makes for very interesting reading.
The Summer Isles – a sea voyage, Philip Marsden, 2019. I love the sea and I miss not being able to visit the coastline every year. This book is refreshing and delightful to read. It is an account of a sea voyage along the spectacular, Atlantic west coast of Ireland, and then across the Irish Sea, sailing through the waters between the inner Hebrides & north to the archipelago of the Summer Isles. The account is full of varied interests. The author has a dinghy on board so he can leave his boat anchored in deep waters while he goes to shore to do some sight-seeing (Aran Is), or visit a local pub, where he meets some interesting and delightful characters. On one occasion whilst sailing up the north west coast of Ireland, there is a storm. His description of his battle against the wind, the rain and the huge waves is mind-chilling, a relief when he comes safely through. Once he gets to the Summer Isles, he has reached his journey’s end and I’ve reached mine too. Thank you for watching & listening.