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4.7 out of 5 stars
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4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 20 July 2005
This is a beautiful collection of essays, evocative, poetic, humane and rooted. The reader is cradled by the style, taught to look and to see and above all appreciate a sense of place and context. It can be highly recommended to anyone in need of refreshment from grind or grime.
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!
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on 3 November 2006
A Life Less Ordinary

Kathleen Jamie is a rare talent. She has travelled widely, Tibet, Pakistan and Afghanistan, and in a scared world drawn in upon itself, written compassionately about the people she has met. She is one of Scotland's foremost contemporary poets whose poems explore the profundity of the everyday. She draws connections not from the insignificant to the profound, but sees within the ordinary the essential. Reading her is a delight. Her writing suggests that you could leave your children with her for the day knowing that they would not only be safe, but would probably be eager to visit again. She has no need for the bile and withering sarcasm of the alpha males of the literary world. You won't have to wipe spittle of your chin while staring into the angry eyes of a Will Self, or watch your back while an Amis is around.

Her latest book `Findings' is a series of essays, a gentle ramble around her homeland. Although domestic and whimsical, delighting in random insignificant details such as a plastic doll's head on a Hebridean beach, in her quiet way she explores the significance of the mundane, charting the drama and complexity of ordinary life.

She is evidently a restless soul finding reasons to travel. The places she chooses are usually on the margins of modern society; highland sheilings, deserted Hebridean Islands, Maes Howe in Orkney or watching corncrakes on Coll. But these are not places to hide from the horrors of the modern world but rather vantages points providing a descant to its muzak. In the eponymous essay `Findings' in the chance company of BBC sound recordists she visits the Monarch Islands admitting that she has never heard off them before. Tim and Martin are keen to record bird song. Jamie trawls through the debris on the beach, traffic bollards, shampoo and milk cartons, odd trainers and a dead whale. She collects two bleached sticks, a gannet's beak and a whale vertebrae, memorials to the natural world. She then notes her regret at not adding the plastic dolls head to her collection and points out that New Zealand has plastic beaches `100,000 grains to the square metre' and that an otter has been found in the Hebrides garrotted by plastic tape. This is not escapism rather viewing the modern world from a novel perspective.

The shepherd has a quad bike rather than collies.

We can live with fly blown Glasgow high rise tenements knee deep in rubbish but that the detritus of modern life washes up on a remote Hebridean beach seems shocking. Kathleen Jamie's genius is to leave us asking why.

The opening essay is a remarkable reflection on darkness and light. She makes the case for the dark:

`Pity the dark: we're so concerned to overcome and banish it, its crammed full of all that's devilish, like some grim cupboard under the stairs.'

She wants to see the dark as a natural phenomena:

`to enter into the dark for the love of its texture and wild intimacy'.

She notes that the old metaphor is wearing out. She goes to Orkney and visits Maes Howe the Neolithic chamber built to celebrate the turn of the year and the beginning of the end of winter's dark. She finds it full of surveyors from Historic Scotland with computerise laser scanning and pulse radar equipment. Her guide tells her `We're on the web you know. Live. Don't go picking your nose.'

The essays also deal with the mundane and the macabre; family illness and a visit to the `Surgeons Hall' in Edinburgh. No single event is allowed to remain on its own but is thrown into relief , a perspective privileged from a different place. The practicalities of her `Nana's' move into a nursing home is balanced with a trip to Lewis where she ponders the mystery of an ancient building on a stack and observes a deer cull. The various, apparently random elements of each essay are pulled together with the poet's craft, each reflecting on the other.

She embodies the spirit of the Romantics: `On man on Nature and on Human life musing in solitude.' Everything derives from and leads back to nature and the continuity of human experience.

Hers is a gentle touch and an original profundity deepening our understanding of the world by the connections her poetic imagination makes.
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on 28 August 2005
Findings, by Kathleen Jamie is a startling evocation of place. Jamie presents a collection of essays and observations of her native Scotland, bringing a poet's eye to the landscape and city skylines. There is a keen awareness of the beauty of the natural world, and of the artifacts built by people, be they ruined bothys in isolated glens, the monuments of Edinburgh or a preserved specemin in a jar.
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.
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on 28 March 2012
I was a little disappointed by Findings, having bought it on the strength of prior reviews. It's written in delicate, straightforward prose, with occasional moments of beautiful observation, and with some laugh-out-loud descriptions too, which were a real pleasure to read. Findings is a collection of essays about the natural world, our common day-to-day lives, and our strange juxtaposition with nature. There's nothing new in what Jamie says - these aren't philosophical essays or encouragements to deeper thought about nature. Jamie's central point is to encourage us to pay closer to attention to nature, and she persuades by doing so herself, and writing with as close an eye as she can. By far the strongest essay in the collection actually takes place indoors, when she visits the museum collection of a hospital. It's a strange, intoxicating moment, which creates a powerful atmosphere. However, the essays seem like a series of extended pieces of journalism. She uses the same technique to frame each of them, so that after a while, rather than reading like an unfolding perspective on nature, they become a bit predictable.
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on 1 April 2015
Each chapter takes one somewhere different, lead by this most engaging of Scotland's younger writers. Her sensitive perceptivity will make you think again about places you may already know, and also lead you to ones you did not realise were there. At the same time you have to admire her warm, adventurous and imaginative spirit, that never looses its grip on reality.
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on 11 March 2014
I was slightly sceptical when I ordered this book, I couldn't quite work out what to expect, whether it would be primarily nature writing, a travelogue or biography. It turns out it was a wonderfully melded blend of all three. The prose is beautiful as you would expect from a poet but it is also informative and entertaining. I particularly enjoyed her walk across the flotsam-scattered dunes of the Western Isles and her descriptions of Edinburgh's urban nature.

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.
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This is a gentle book, which explores aspects of both the natural and man-made environments. Scottish to the core, but with an eye for things that are more world-wide, Kathleen Jamie has a wonderful turn of phrase and a eye for detail.

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.

Highly recommended.
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on 15 April 2013
Nature writing of this calibre is up with the best literature. I will return to these beautiful essays. You sense that you are there. Down to earth but spiritual in a positive way. Not preachy, this is a way of converting sceptics to environmentalism.
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on 15 June 2013
There is something about the way that Jamie writes that captivates and immerses you in the subject that she writes about.

This book is no exception to that.

The subject, or short essays, that are in this book are not exclusively about the natural world, but most are. As she writes on the matter at hand, I feel her passion and her strengths, her weakness and doubts, and all the time I am amazed by the attention to detail that she has in her prose. It doesn't seem to make any difference whether she is writing about peregrines or her husbands fever, you feel alongside, seeing the things that she has seen, feeling the wind and smelling the sea.

This is effortless, exquisite reading.
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on 25 August 2007
A stunning reflective piece, I adored it. If you love beachcombing, wildlife, the mystery of neolitic tombs and question your place in the universe, then Findings will resonate with you.

If you like this book, then read Sea Room by Adam Nichols.
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