Customer Reviews


80 Reviews
5 star:
 (57)
4 star:
 (18)
3 star:
 (3)
2 star:    (0)
1 star:
 (2)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


58 of 60 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ways of Seeing
It's been five years since Jamie's collection 'Findings', so I looked forward to this with eager anticipation; nor was I disappointed. She dedicates this collection of pieces to "the island-goers", even though the settings include Bergen, Central Scotland, and a Pathology Lab at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee; happily islands such as Rona, St Kilda and Shetland also...
Published on 25 Mar 2012 by Sentinel

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars for all its best intentions, is a bland repetitive experiment
Sightlines, for all its best intentions, is a bland repetitive experiment. Despite an intention of naturalism, without romanticism as the critics insist, this collection of essays is neither a profound exploration of human experience, or fully devote poetry to the natural. Often the essays, rather than finding a sweet medium between the complexity of the 'man-made' and...
Published 1 month ago by om


‹ Previous | 1 28 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

58 of 60 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ways of Seeing, 25 Mar 2012
By 
Sentinel (Essex) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Sightlines (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
It's been five years since Jamie's collection 'Findings', so I looked forward to this with eager anticipation; nor was I disappointed. She dedicates this collection of pieces to "the island-goers", even though the settings include Bergen, Central Scotland, and a Pathology Lab at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee; happily islands such as Rona, St Kilda and Shetland also appear.

These essays, or perhaps 'meditations' is a better term, range in length from two to about 30 pages, long, and each are beautifully illustrated by stylish b & w photos. Whether describing the synchronised,shining curves of a pod of orcas, the eyes of gannets, "round and fierce, with a rim of weird blue", or the irregular surface of a cancer tumour, named "for the crab, because a cancer tumour sends claws out into the surrounding tissue", her eye continues to offer unusual poetic or challenging perspectives, especially when she pictures parts of the human anatomy as a landscape of land and river margins, mud-flats et al.

Her eye extends to an archaelogical dig, "the bite on the point" of her trowel, and the discovery of the woman in the cist burial. Although her sharp eye also catches the "glowing marshmallow pink" of icebergs in the morning sun during an Arctic cruise, her ear also delights in the charm of the "di-diddle-ditted" of a petrel in its burrow on Rona, responding to the tape recording played at its burrow mouth. There's also the account of her determined attempts to overcome the ocean's might, to finally describe the isolation of St.Kilda at her third attempt, and an almost hypnotic encounter with the curving power of cetacean skeletons in the 'Whale Museum' in Bergen.

Overall, this is an insightful and largely inspiring set of writings, with the marvels of the natural world predominant. I confess to feeling that the piece on 'Pathologies' was not to my taste, and felt it sat rather uneasily amongst the other writing, though I can see the link with other pathologies, including the cist burial. Hats off to 'Sort Of' books for some lovely paperback production values: clear typesetting, gorgeous cover art, illustrations, and the book's 'feel' in your hand.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lyrical, contemplative nature writing, 2 April 2012
By 
M. Harrison - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Sightlines (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Having absolutely loved Findings, Scottish poet Kathleen Jamie's previous collection of essays, I was very excited to read Sightlines. Also inspired by the natural world, it is just as quiet and contemplative, and revisits some of her previous subjects - sea birds, islands, pathology - as well as the aurora borealis, a lunar eclipse, archaeology, whales' jawbones and a dead storm petrel she finds on St Kilda.

But as with Findings, this is more than just `nature writing'. Jamie uses each of her closely observed subjects as a jumping-off point for a meditation on our relationship to the object in question, its position in time and in the world, and its personal significance for her. The result is a series of spare yet lyrical essays that continue to resonate long after you have put the book down. Wonderful.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very moving, 19 Oct 2012
By 
trishthedish (UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Sightlines (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I read this book and was moved to tears at times, her sensitivity towards Nature is to be read to be understood. Actually, I felt this book was hard to describe as such, if you like poetry and Nature, you will get it, if you don't you will not. My husband didn't - his loss, so it depends on where you're coming from. If you know the particular areas mentioned around Scotland and the Isles it helps too, don't think you could fail to be moved in that case, unless you're some sort of android. Will now go back and read other work by the author and possibly re-visit some of the sites again.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exhilarating......, 6 Nov 2012
By 
Steven Foster (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Sightlines (Kindle Edition)
.......in a slow food kind of way

I was a expecting a poetry book but got a collection of essays.

Such a short book but I learned so much and want to explore so much more.

Kathleen Jamie - in that poet's spare, enigmatic way - gives an insight into her background, work, family and nature.

I cheered inside to read that she hadn't come from privilege or gone to university but what an indictment on our (their - Scottish?) education system that such a latent talent could pass through school without being recognised, encouraged or nutured.

Kathleen made me want to look up words, highlight phrases like 'the wind would catch it and send up plumes of rainbow', go beyond 60 degrees latitude, see the aurora borealis, visit the Hval museum, go to remote islands and more.

Her discussions about death and family resonated . By chance, at the same time, I was reading 'Supersense' by Bruce Hood and it's uncanny how Kathleen Jamie reflects the very topics in that book. Can we feel the spirit of land or animals like an echo from the past?

He didn't ask me to but I felt jealous on her husband's behalf at the intimacies of friendship described by Kathleen and of the access that her standing gives her and was positively exhilarated by her description of chasing killer whales around an island!

And all this with words - phew!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, absorbing and revealing, 23 Aug 2012
By 
Mrs. K. A. P. Wright - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Sightlines (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Kathleen Jamie is a Scottish poet. This book is a series of essays roughly grouped round the concept of 'the natural'. This is a wide field encompassing such subjects as Aurora, Pathology, the Hvalsalen (the Whale Hall at Bergen Museum). Natural doesn't necessarily mean living or sentient, but Jamie pulls them all together so that we can appreciate the connections.

These essays are in prose and I hesitate to say that the language is poetic because that term is frequently used damningly (and wrongly) to summon up ideas of flowery epithets and a generally precious and pretentious form of writing. Kathleen Jamie's writing is crystal clear. It is sharp and vivid and when she does use figures of speech they are apt and to the point. I think my favourite was her description of icebergs:
"Some people say you can smell icebergs . . . I smell nothing but colossal, witless indifference."

I really enjoyed this book and I was not sure I was going to. It is a book that I shall revisit, because I think it has a lot more to give than a first reading would discover. She made me consider at things I had largely ignored before and look at them in a way that I would not have thought of doing myself. Highly recommended.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'Part of that rough tribe of the mortal', 17 April 2012
By 
Laura T (Bradford-on-Avon, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Sightlines (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I'm a great fan of the increasingly popular genre of 'nature writing', with recent favourites including Robert Macfarlane's 'The Wild Places' and Philip Connors' 'Fire Season'. However, although it is not a genre that tends to produce terrible books, it can tend towards mediocrity; good descriptive writing abounds but truly exceptional work is rare. That's why I was delighted to discover this marvellous book of essays - and sad that I hadn't come across Kathleen Jamie's work earlier. ('Findings', her first collection, has shot right to the top of my to-read list).

These essays are an eclectic mix, spanning place, subject, and length - some are only a few pages long, others much longer. But nearly all are outstanding in one way or another. Jamie opens the collection with 'Aurora', a description of a journey towards the northern lights that is possibly the best piece she presents here, and certainly my favourite. What Joanna Kavenna struggled to do in hundreds of pages in her turgid 'The Ice Museum', Jamie manages in less than twenty, moving evocatively from a description of the 'colossal, witless indifference' of the surrounding icebergs themselves, to the radar screen that marks them out as a 'rash of green dots'. She is also not above humour, which conveys a vital sense of herself and avoids the overly-stylised journalistic tone that sometimes afflicts travel writing. Reporting that some suggest that you can hear your own nerves working in the Arctic silence, she goes on to say that 'Some people say you can smell icebergs, that they smell like cucumbers. You can smell icebergs and hear your own nervous system. I don't know.'

I have reviewed this first essay in such depth because its strengths are, largely, the strengths of the other essays in this collection. As well as being a wonderful writer, Jamie is also superb at structure. This is demonstrates most strongly in a later piece, 'The Gannetry'. Her sighting of the fin of a killer whale and race to follow the animal's path around the island is infused with tension; you don't expect nature writing to be page-turning, but this is. However, a structural choice that is, in my opinion, even more effective, is her juxtaposition of the description of the gannetry with reflections on her relationship with her son. This is initially frustrating when a seemingly irrelevant description of a text conversation between them interrupts the description of the killer whale chase, but is brought full circle when she reflects at the end of the essay that killer whale packs are matriarchal, meaning that grown sons remain with their mothers. There's no need to spell out her own feelings about her son growing up and moving away from her, as she's done it all already.

As is probably obvious, I could quote endlessly from these essays, especially my other favourites, 'The Woman in the Field', 'Pathologies', 'On Rona', and 'Three Ways of Looking at St Kilda', but this review is already long. The only pieces that didn't quite work, for me, were the shorter ones, but I think this was because Jamie did not give herself space for the full development of ideas that she manages in the longer essays, and not because they were in any way badly-written. I recommend this collection wholeheartedly, and can't wait to read more of Jamie's work.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking beautiful writing - these essays are in another league., 2 April 2012
By 
A. I. McCulloch "Andrea" (Co Durham) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Sightlines (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is an unusual book of essays, taking as its core theme the way we perceive the natural world; when we look at something, what do we see?
This sounds like it would be self-indulgent mind-gabble, but it isn't, these are beautifully crafted pieces of work that delight you with their insight and their use of language.

The description of parts of the human body under the microscope as landscape, was a completely original take on a grimly fascinating subject. It isn't all meditation, there's a lovely recollection of an archaeological dig as a teenager and these slivers of biography add to the human interest within the book.

If I hadn't known that Kathleen Jamie was a poet, I would have probably guessed it from her prose. She has an absolute mastery of language but this never distances you from her writing. I enjoyed her humorous description of the (non)trips to St Kilda as much as the more deeply meditative pieces.

Kathleen Jamie's prose output may be relatively sparse, but masterpieces aren't created overnight. Highly recommended, not just to those who enjoy the natural world, but to all who enjoy good writing.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Poetic Travel, 15 Aug 2012
By 
P. Stokes "Historian71" (Scotland) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Sightlines (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
With such imaginative lyrical prose this book should come with a warning that the reader will wish to follow in the author's footsteps. This is a wonderfully uplifting read and the author can transport the reader to St Kilda and Hvalsalen with breathtaking effect. Possibly best read on a windswept shore somewhere to gain the full effect or let the author paint that picture for you.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very unusual, very well written, 21 Jun 2012
By 
FLB (England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Sightlines (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I have to admit that I would never normally select a book like this out of choice, but on a whim I ordered and read it and I can honestly say that I have never read anything quite like it before. I have never read a book of essays for a start, but I was pleasantly surprised by the eloquent way in which Kathleen writes about the subject matter.

It certainly gave me a different perspective on different things, from shorelines to cellular matter and set my mind off wandering in all sorts of directions.

Not what I expected, but very well written and very unusual.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3.0 out of 5 stars for all its best intentions, is a bland repetitive experiment, 13 Aug 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Sightlines (Paperback)
Sightlines, for all its best intentions, is a bland repetitive experiment. Despite an intention of naturalism, without romanticism as the critics insist, this collection of essays is neither a profound exploration of human experience, or fully devote poetry to the natural. Often the essays, rather than finding a sweet medium between the complexity of the 'man-made' and 'natural', lose focus between the two. This balance unfortunately leaves the book devoid of real personal wit, anecdote and insight. The writing fails to be compelling or truthful. It often feels as if the author is either repeating a trick in style she had learned from her previous book (and hence the fresh zing of thought) and is being too considered to really strike at the heart of a matter. You can see her often stretching for a precise metaphor but it too frequently comes across as a neat sound bite for the papers. Reflection becomes a matter of passivity. There is much potential in these essays, real potential for revelation and the joy that the reader may experience when they see her clever machinery of words. More often than not, however, the prose seems lost in poetic translation.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 28 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

Sightlines
Sightlines by Kathleen Jamie (Paperback - 5 April 2012)
£6.29
In stock
Add to basket Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews