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Kith: The Riddle of the Childscape Hardcover – 2 May 2013


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Kith: The Riddle of the Childscape + Wild: An Elemental Journey + Pip Pip: A Sideways Look at Time
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Hamish Hamilton (2 May 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0241144345
  • ISBN-13: 978-0241144343
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 3.8 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 201,215 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Review

If bravery itself could write (by definition it can't), it would write, I believe, like she does (John Berger)

[Griffiths has] the intelligence of a naturalist and the luminous originality of a visitor from another planet (The Times)

Griffiths's writing is dexterous and lush (New York Times Book Review)

A rich and extraordinary vision. Jay Griffiths is a fearless adventurer with words and images. I salute her courage (Philip Pullman)

Jay Griffiths is one of our most poetic and passionate critics of the ways of civilisation. Provocative, illuminating and shamelessly romantic (Theodore Zeldin)

Jay Griffiths writes with such richness and mischief about the one thing that could truly save the world: its children (KT Tunstall)

An impassioned, visionary plea to restore to our children the spirit of adventure, freedom and closeness to nature that is their birthright. We must hear it and act on it before it is too late (Iain McGilchrist)

About the Author

Jay Griffiths is the author of Pip Pip: A Sideways Look at Time and Wild: An Elemental Journey, both hugely acclaimed by readers, writers and musicians alike. A Love Letter from a Stray Moon, a fictionalised account on the life of Frida Kahlo, was released as an exclusive Penguin Special in 2012. She grew up in England and now lives in Wales.

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By tintin on 21 Jun 2013
Format: Hardcover
I always get the sense when I am reading something by Jay Griffiths that what she is saying is very important and needs to be heard. Badly. I had that feeling strongly with her previous book `Wild' and this book `Kith' gives me the same feeling.
If you are a parent (as I am), you must put away your parental worries when you read this book (and all the 'well I can't possibly do that!' reactions) because this is not a manual (she is clear about that) and is not about parents and what they do/don't do. It is about the much wider picture of how society in the west has shifted and what affect that is having on childhood, children - and their parents. It is as much about the need to re-evaluate and listen to the voices of the romantic movement once again and the idea that our world has become dominated by left brain thinking - the left brain being the side of the brain that is busy with analysis, detail and organising - to the detriment of the right brain which perceives the wider patterns, the deeper relationships between things and the connections between ourselves and our world. (and if you want corroboration of this see this extraordinary talk by a neuroscientist who had a left brain stroke http://www.ted.com/talks/jill_bolte_taylor_s_powerful_stroke_of_insight.html)
Jay Griffiths speaks of the history of the politics of land enclosure, of the separation from the land, the gradual enclosure of childhood in houses and bedrooms and the triumph of consumerism that likes children in their houses so toys and electronics replace rivers, dens, woods, snails, bugs, sticks and dirt.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By George Monbiot on 8 May 2013
Format: Hardcover
Kith is a shattering, uplifting, terrifying, fascinating book. Reading it, I found myself overwhelmed by a mixture of loss, anger and understanding. When Griffiths makes the connection between the enclosure of the land and the enclosure of childhood, it triggers one of those rare moments of enlightenment in which so much that seemed hazy or incomprehensible before suddenly makes sense. From then onwards, as the story built, I found myself profoundly shaken by the madness of the ways in which we have treated children and - through their continuing exclusion from public spaces, through the detached parenting of babies which some childcare gurus still preach, through the enclosure and marshalling of childrens' time, through their recruitment as consumers and brand ambassadors and many other forms of neglect and imposition - treat them still. Kith is a plea for freedom, for experimentation, discovery, wonder, delight and joy at the time of life when all these things should come - and be offered - naturally, and we should heed it.

It is beautifully, astonishingly written: almost one long poem. It will sweep you up and bundle you away.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By annenza on 4 May 2013
Format: Hardcover
This impressive extensively (both desk and field) researched work has received endorsements from Philip Pullman ('Her work is not just good - it's necessary'), Theodore Zeldin ('one of our most poetic and passionate critics... provocative, illuminating and shamelessly romantic'), as well as John Berger, KT Tunstall, Niall Griffiths and Iain McGilchrist. So I don't need to add much here except to say that they are right. This book is not a dispassionate survey, but an engaged and engaging literary experience, which takes you both back to your own childhood, and around the childhood and kith across the globe. It's exhilarating, reflective and poetic. Simply outstanding.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Feathers on 5 May 2013
Format: Hardcover
I loved this book - it's so full of energy and insight. A really different take on childhood, mixing history, anthropology, memoir, literature and history - it reminded me of what's unique and good about childhood. This is also a work of literature rather than straight up history, and it should be read as a lyrical literary work that requires a sensitive, subtle reader who is able to move beyond the literal. It's a special book, a rollicking read, an emotional polemic, a rallying cry, a passionate look back at the Romantic poets, and a brave book about what makes our childhoods important, throughout our lives. I highly recommend this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Alice on 19 Aug 2013
Format: Hardcover
Griffiths is a unique voice in literature. With a ferocious and fearless intellect she dissects our political landscape. So far, so impressive. But it is her visionary insight into fundamental human truths that touches the nerve. And it is her beauteous facility with language that brackets her works with those of great literature.

Griffiths describes why we all - and, most punishingly, children - fail to thrive when deprived of our 'kith'. Why the lack of connection to, and freedom in, our land throttles an essential wellspring of the human animal.

The startling insights in 'Kith' cannot properly be described, however, by any reductionist précis. It is rather the sensitivity of Griffiths' observations which are transformative, having the ability to take us to places we had forgotten we knew. For example:

"A hush surrounds the daydreaming child, a different kind of air; as if the nearby air of the ordinary had evaporated into the air which the soul breathes..."

transported me from the de-sensitivity of adulthood to again experience the wondering, entranced reverie which we felt as children when our minds drifted magically and without boundary over all that is known and unknown.

Or again:

"Before a mirror had meaning, before my skin was a boundary, I remember nature as if it were inside me. Birds sang and I heard it inside. It snowed: I snowed. It rained: I rained... I was all the world and all the world was me"

vividly conjures the Zen state that children naturally experience, and adults in deep meditation attain, on transcending the crude and artificial dualism of subject/object.

This work is, like Griffiths' other books, an exposition of rare beauty because it is transformative, re-opening our hearts to the truths of life which we buried far, far away when we stopped being all the world and tried to be an 'adult'.
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