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John Lister-Kaye (Scotland)

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Holy the Firm
Holy the Firm
by Annie Dillard
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dazzled., 22 April 2013
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This review is from: Holy the Firm (Paperback)
There are moments in life when one needs books like this. Whether or not you have a faith or subscribe to a religion, most of us would acknowledge that the human spirit is real. Annie Dillard has the extremely rare talent of reaching out to that spirituality and engaging with it with extraordinary power. If she's out there and sees this, thank you Annie for this little book. Other reviewers have said what it's about and how uplifting her imagery is, but for me it also contains a disturbingly deep and unforgettable inspiration like the poems of Rimbaud or the Bhavagad Gita.


A Reed Shaken by the Wind: Travels Among the Marsh Arabs of Iraq
A Reed Shaken by the Wind: Travels Among the Marsh Arabs of Iraq
by Gavin Maxwell
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.08

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The other Maxwell, 4 Feb. 2011
It is sad but inevitable that Gavin Maxwell should be best remembered for the otter trilogy and his multi-million best seller 'Ring of Bright Water'. Sad because excellent though the 'Ring' is, it depicts only a fraction of Maxwell's abilities and interests. Those who have read Douglas Botting's superlative biography, 'Gavin Maxwell - A Life' will know that there was so much more to Maxwell than the otter-loving Scottish recluse. 'A Reed Shaken by the Wind' was only his second book of the twelve he would eventually write. It is autobiographical only in so far as it records his expedition to the Tigris marshes with Wilfred Thesiger; it reveals little of the inner man. But it does vividly demonstrate his skill as an emerging travel writer and an objective geographer and student of third world cultures, for which, of course, he was to win the Heinemann Literary Award.
The book is moving, sensitive and inevitably dated. Events have tragically overtaken the marsh arabs in recent decades, but it stands as an accurate and authoratitive account of a lost world. Interestingly, Thesiger was furious that Maxwell wrote this book and won awards for it. It cooled their friendship for thirty years, but in the fullness of time Thesiger made up for it by publishing his own opus magnus 'The Marsh Arabs', which was to win him accliam all of own as the greated arabist excplorer of the post war period.


The Music Room
The Music Room
by William Fiennes
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brave and eloquent tribute beautifully crafted, 30 Mar. 2010
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This review is from: The Music Room (Hardcover)
Willian Feinnes lost his dearly loved older brother Richard to epilepsy, aged 41. Tragedy is one of life's essences. It touches us all from time to time, one of those inescapable swirls of fate's whirligig, sweeping in unexpectedly and catching us unawares. Some of us hide away, seeking catharsis in secrecy and solitude, others need to communicate, to expiate their loss by sharing it with the world. As an established master of autobiography (The Snow Geese - highly recommended) William Feinnes has chosen to commit to words his uplifting journey through childhood with his seriously epileptic brother a constant and not always benign presence in their ancient family home.
Be prepared to be transported, to be wafted off to an intimate world of all-embracing family love and commitment to one of their troubled own. It is a deeply touching story, but the way Fiennes builds the images of his home and family so essential to the understanding of Richard's predicament is masterly, both stylistically and with a palpable magnanimity of spirit rose-tinting even the bleakest moments of Richard's uncontainable violence.

This is a book to treasure and re-read. As one who is by nature contemptuous of poorly crafted or self-indulgent autobiography, I have no hesitation in awarding The Music Room is full five star status.


The Peregrine (New York Review Books Classics)
The Peregrine (New York Review Books Classics)
by J.A. Baker
Edition: Paperback

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Seminal Work - a huge influence on British nature writing., 28 Feb. 2010
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As a naturalist and nature writer myself I cannot over emphasise the significance of John Baker's Peregrine to the genre of nature writing as a whole.
This is an immensely powerful book; it has led some people to speculate that he was terminally ill when he wrote it, and it certainly possesses that intensity. The text is incanatory; it becomes a prose poem over and over again without you realising it; as Robert Macfarlane says in the introduction, Baker has invented a whole new language in which to express his obsession with the peregrines he follows through a bleak, East Anglian winter lanndscape.
Most remarkable, as this book is republished more than forty years after Baker's death, I find that naturalist after naturalist, and writer after writer of my generation was profoundly influenced by The Peregrine. It is not about ornithology; you can learn much more about peregrine falcons from text books and field guides, but as a great work of creative nature writing it stands alone.
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