What I read in January 2019 (Part 1)

I had already seen many recommendations for The Salt Path by Raynor Winn on social media, when a hardback copy caught my eye in the local library. I was not disappointed. It was difficult to put it down.

The author and her husband had fallen on very hard times. Instead of taking any conventional course of action they set off on a long distance walk around the coastline of Dorset, Devon and Cornwall, while they worked out what to do next. I have visited all three counties in the past, but only a small number of the places described in this book. There is a map, which in my opinion is always a good reason for reading a book.

The story is enthralling and the writing excellent. I read it over a weekend. It is the author’s first book, but I hope it will not be her last. It was shortlisted for the Costa book awards and the copy I borrowed had a Wainwright Prize sticker.


What I read in October 2018 (Part 2)

Both the books reviewed here were from the local library. The first was on a display ahead of National Poetry Day.

The Bees by Carol Ann Duffy

This is a beautifully produced hardback book with a ribbon bookmark. It is the both first of the poet laureate’s books, and the first, which I have read. Many of the poems include references to bees. I should like to read this with a group and discuss the poems. My own reading of it was rather superficial. It is a book to dip into rather than to read for hours on end. I read the poems in the order they were printed, apart from looking ahead to one of local interest to me. I enjoyed this book.

Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees by Roger Deakin

I began reading this book before the two works of fiction reviewed in the previous post. It is narrative nonfiction and takes a great deal of concentration. I was tempted to give up, but then I found some really interesting parts and resolved to finish reading it. I had to renew it twice, although I might have finished it within six weeks, had I not had a week away. I finished reading it at the beginning of November.

I have already read and reviewed Waterlogged, Roger Deakin’s earlier book. I learned about him through reading books by Robert Macfarlane, his literary executor. After I finished reading Wildwood I looked at the copyright page and discovered that this book was published posthumously. I wonder whether a more readable version might have resulted had there been an opportunity for correspondence between the author and an editor. The book is divided into sections, but it is relatively unstructured and seemed to end abruptly. At one point it takes seven pages to reveal the name of the person making the change from first person singular to first person plural necessary.

I love trees and find wooden objects attractive. I have enjoyed walks in forests in England, Scotland, Wales and Oregon. Wildwood broadened my horizons even more than my own travel! There is a great deal of fascinating information about trees, forests and people who live and work in woodlands in many parts of the world. When he was overseas, Roger Deakin compared the landscape with familiar places in Britain. (I had been more surprised by the similarities between species in Oregon, than differences. I had expected it to be more foreign. This seems to be a human tendency – to relate the new to the known. It works well in Deakin’s descriptions of foreign places.)

Walnuts, apples, ash trees, eucalyptus, farmers, craftsmen, folk traditions, and almost anything imaginable connected with wood are included. As it is a travel book as well as a nature book, photographs would have been an interesting addition. However there are illustrations at the start of each chapter. There is a lot of description, setting scenes and describing tools, gadgets and more in detail. A glossary of technical and foreign terms might also have helped readers.

Although I have made some critical comments about this book, I am glad I persevered with it. There is a lot of good writing and interesting information in it.

I don’t usually read reviews by other bloggers before posting my own, but as I had some strong views about this book, I searched for other reviews. The first one I found agreed with me that an index would be useful in the paperback edition.


Looking back on 2017 and forward to 2018

At the beginning of the year I chose the word Trust and wrote a post about my reasons and goals.

In July I revisited the word and wrote an update about my progress.

So as the end of the year approaches how am I getting on?

There have been times when I have failed completely to trust God. Other times I have been really encouraged about the way things have worked out.

A notable example was when I began to make plans to travel and include attending the ACW Writers’ Day in London. I had decided on dates to travel, but not booked my train tickets. Then I changed my mind. I realised that I didn’t need to go. The trip would have been for my benefit and not for that of my Mum, with whom I would stay. I would miss a number of events near home for the sake of a single event in London.

I went to our cathedral (on the same day as the writers’ day) for a choral workshop and a festival service with presentations of awards, including one to a member of our church choir. On the Sunday morning I sang in the choir at the confirmation service in the parish church. In the afternoon hubby and I went to a piano recital at a theatre in our local area. It was probably the busiest weekend of the year so far!

Then a few weeks later I made the trip south and found that it was entirely for Mum’s benefit. We had a really enjoyable time with her friends and activities at her church. I had seen some of my own friends on earlier visits.

Seen from the train

Seen from the train

I was also blessed on my journeys. My journey south was on the day of a storm, which affected transport on my route later in the day. (The trains were running normally when I passed the affected area.) I had to change trains in 13 minutes according to the timetable. The train I was on was running late. I didn’t panic, but waited patiently for the lift in order to change platforms. My next train was due to leave in 2 minutes as I boarded it. In fact I think it waited a little longer for other passengers from the delayed train. My return journey was on time all the way. (This is a journey which takes at least 8 hours in total with 3 trains.)

Other ways in which I have behaved differently include stepping down from a rota, where there seems to be no shortage of volunteers, in order to have more energy for music and for my other activities.

I wonder which word I should choose for 2018.  The second lesson of St Peter Chapter 1 verse 5-7 has a list of qualities which should be added to faith. The books of poetry tell us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Micah tells us to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.

One word?

Discipleship. Learning to live God’s way.