Findings Paperback – 2 Jun 2005
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Prose essays of a sharpness of looking, and directness of thought, that will make them last a long time; some of the best writing out of rural Scotland for many decades. Jamie observes the extraordinary, alien natural world around her with a frank uncluttered candour, while nevertheless standing rooted in the middle of modern family life. (Andrew Marr)
Kathleen Jamie is a supreme listener. Her attention - to the beckoning calls of the peregrines that nest near her house, to the brimful darkness in the neolithic chambers at Maes Howe, to the mute appeals of embryo skeletons in a medical museum - has a directness that borders on the heroic. And in the quietness of her listening, you hear her own voice: clear, subtle, respectful, and so unquenchably curious that it makes the world anew. This is as close as writing gets to a conversation with the natural world. (Richard Mabey)
From the moment you meet Kathleen Jamie's words, you meet a passion for the environment, not as an abstract quality but as what surrounds her...the small birds in the garden, the landscapes of her native Scotland, even ordinary familiar domestic cares are illuminated with curiosity, affection, knowledge and a deep concern. (Rosalind Coward, writer and journalist)
About the Author
Winner of the prestigious Forward Prize 2004, Kathleen Jamie is considered one of Britains most important poets. Her first travel book, Among Muslims, was described by The Independent as utterly luminous and by the Times Literary Supplement as one of the most powerful accounts by a contemporary western writer. She often writes for BBC Radio 3 and the London Review of Books, and is a lecturer in Creative Writing at St Andrews University. Kathleen Jamie lives in Fife with her husband and two young children.
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I really enjoyed reading someone else who noticed nature in a way I can relate to and who is able to describe it in a way that is not verbose or technical but somewhere in between. It certainly made my bus rides through Hampshire a little more wild and entertaining.
If you like contemplative, slow moving, walks through interesting places then this may be the book for you. There are no major cliffs to be scales, no desperate snowy landscapes, just accessible places where most readers could walk, but most probably wont.
The contemplation of darkness, peregrines, the endless call of invisible corncrakes and a collection of preserved anatomical specimens all provide a landscape for exploration. (With this last topic being, surprisingly, one of the best sections in the book).
I don't think this book says anything particularly new, but it does use some rather wonderful prose to explore familiar ground.
It is always a joy to see the world as others do, and Kathleen Jamie is generous and eloquent in her observations. A book to make you open your eyes and love the world again - as such, it is highly recommended.
I bought this book because I felt a deep sense of gratitude for Kathleen Jamie's 'Among Muslims'; she is one of a few writers I buy automatically. This collection has not disappointed. The essays have at their core a passion for Scotland the wild, the home but not romantic or rose-tinted. The issues she raises from within herself are relevant to any human location. The stresses and strains of mans relationship with the environment are described in a context that is clear and meaningful. By the end the essays have shown the reader to see and view the environment with a poignant reality rare in books of any sort. This is an inspiring enviromental appreciation and its gentle understanding of the complex facets involved in these debates is unique; no bullying tone but a clear and deep gratitude for surrounding both natural and man-made. Begging nothing more than an aware, sensitive and achievable response from the reader.
The language is poetic and resonant. My husband has gone blind quite recently and I am often on the look out for books that are visually strong enough for him to enjoy. I read the first chapter to him, its subject, Darkness and Light was beautifully evocative of a place we had visited when he had more sight. Yet we agreed had you not visited these places you would still feel enchanted and drawn towards them.
The 'essay' style of the collection is also attractive. Busy family life can preclude long complicated reads, especially in summer. These essays are related but clearly individual a great asset when perpetual interruptions of, for example, children at home prevent longer studious reads. They would be a wonderful companion on a journey or daily commute or when short time spans are all that is available. Yet the writing is no less challenging for this, I used a dictionary more often than usual! I enjoyed being schooled in bits of Scots dialect and Norse entymology! At times the observations are slightly personal and sympathetically comforting, but this is not autobiography. This weaving of Kathleen Jamie's own experiences into her historical surroundings is engaging on a number of levels and encourages us to look again at simple things close at hand be they urban or rural.
Having read this I left it by my bed. I came home more than once during the month that followed keen to re-read an extract knowing that I had just seen something mentioned in Findings. The writing stays with you, it is clear and beautiful. Having never read poetry I feel inspired to read some of Kathleen Jamie's own poetry, it might be accessible.
At any level an inspiring and beautiful read and I hope that my busy somewhat menial life will continue to be enhanced by her even busier teaching and writing life, one to watch I think!
If you like this book, then read Sea Room by Adam Nichols.
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