Category Archives: Hamish Hamilton
Ness by Robert Macfarlane & Stanley Donwood
Somewhere on a salt-and-shingle island, inside a ruined concrete structure known as The Green Chapel, a figure called The Armourer is leading a ritual with terrible intent.
But something is coming to stop him.
Five more-than-human forms are traversing land, sea and time towards The Green Chapel, moving to the point where they will converge and become Ness. Ness has lichen skin and willow-bones. Ness is made of tidal drift, green moss and deep time. Ness has hagstones for eyes and speaks only in birds. And Ness has come to take this island back.
What happens when land comes to life? What would it take for land to need to come to life? Using word and image, Robert Macfarlane and Stanley Donwood have together made a minor modern myth. Part-novella, part-prose-poem, part-mystery play, in Ness their skills combine to dazzling, troubling effect.
A shingle spit of land off the Suffolk coast lies Orford Ness now it is reclaimed by nature but years before it played a part for nearly seventy years as scientists carried out secret military research covering from WWI to nuclear weapons. Ness (Hamish Hamilton) by Robert Macfarlane and Stanley Donwood is more than just poetry and words it speaks from the shifting winds that change the landscape of Ness.
There on this shingle land is a concrete building called The Green here there is a figure who is called the Armourer who is conducting a ritual and it is a ritual with terrible meaning soon there are forms that are more than just humans and their intent is to stop him from carrying out his intent.
It is a landscape for birds and this landscape is coming back to reclaim it back for nature. This is poetry, this is a novel, it is prose. You can judge how you wish to view this astonishing short book. Like Ness itself it is just magical and beautiful. Now it is quiet except for the sound of the wind and the sound of the birds that have reclaimed Orford Ness and the sound of shingle underfoot.
A Hagstone is when water and other elements pound the stone so that eventually a hole appears. It is folklore that says to view through a Hagstone is to look at the past, or the future. This is beautiful book of under 100 pages.
Thank you to Hamish Hamilton for the review copy of Ness by Robert Macfarlane & Stanley Donwood.
Ness by Robert Macfarlane and Stanley Donwood was published by Hamish Hamilton on 7th November 2019 and is available to pre-order through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
The House Without Windows by Barbara Newhall Follett and Jackie Morris
Little Eepersip doesn’t want to live in a house with doors and windows and a roof, so she runs away to live in the wild – first in the Meadow, then by the Sea, and finally in the Mountain. Her heartbroken parents follow her at first, bringing her back home to ‘safety’ and locking her up in the stifling square of the house. But she slips away once more, following her wild heart out of the door and far away…
Barbara Newhall Follett was just thirteen years old when she published The House Without Windows in 1927. The book went on to become a million-copy bestseller. Years later, as an adult herself, Barbara followed in the footsteps of her radical heroine – dissatisfied with the limitations of life as a respectable married woman, she walked out of her house one day and simply disappeared.
Penguin are delighted to republish Barbara Newhall Follett’s extraordinary feminist fable for the next generation of nature lovers and escapees to discover and cherish. Newly introduced by Jackie Morris, and filled with her beautifully inked artwork, The House Without Windows is an irresistible paean to the natural world and its transcendent effect on the human heart.
Barbara Newhall Follett was born in 1914 in New Hampshire and a name that may be not be familiar to many people but by the age of twelve she had written a book that was timeless. I knew of her lost classic The House Without Windows from my younger days but lost over time. But now thanks to the publisher Hamish Hamilton and artist and illustrator Jackie Morris The House Without Windows has been re-issued. I can tell that that the embossed cover is just simply gorgeous and inside Jackie Morris has added illustrations that bring Barbara Newhall Follett’s story alive.
Barbara Newhall Follett
The story actually starts a few years before she reaches the age of twelve and Follett had written the story to give to her mother on her own birthday. But tragedy struck when the family were all asleep and fire ripped through the house. The family survived but they lost nearly everything and Follett’s story was lost in the fire.
So what does the young Follett do next? She spends the next few years recounting every moment of the story and re-writes it almost word for word. It is a remarkable testament to a determined young girl so driven to tell this story of Eepersip trying to escape into the wilderness that is The House Without Windows. Little Eepersip does not want to live in a world of made of bricks and glass she wants to live outdoors and so one day she flees the family home out to the meadow, the sea and where the mountains are. Eepersip is free to walk and feel the fresh air, to see where the wild animals, birds and butterflies live after all they are free. This beautiful story as seen through the eyes of a young child who had a troubled start in life. Follett managed to get her book published and a run of 2,500 copies were printed and all sold.
Suddenly Barbara Newhall Follett’s book became a bestseller and at the age of just twelve she hailed as a bright new star in the world of literature. From here you would think that life would be full of great adventures for Follett she travelled as a new writing star would do. Follett continued to write stories and then in 1934 she married.
On 7th December 1939 she left her apartment that they lived in and was never seen again. There have been over the many year’s various stories as to why she walked out of the apartment. Was it the rejections of her stories or life she living between the four walls and a longing to be free as little Eepersip was, to run to the sea and the mountains. We will never know the answer as to why she disappeared but what Follett left was a beautiful story of a young girl escaping into the wilderness to live in nature.
The House Without Windows cries out not only to be read but to be read outdoors it is beautifully written and just enchanting. Highly Recommended.
The House Without Windows by Barbara Newhall Follett and Jackie Morris has made the 2019 shortlist for the Waterstones book of the year.
Special copies of The House Without Windows by Barbara Newhall Follett and Jackie Morris are available through Number Seven Tales Art and Play Bookshop, Dulverton.
https://www.numbersevendulverton.co.uk/ Jackie Morris has signed copies of the books and there is a silver Snow Hare stamped in the book by Jackie. These are just beautiful collector’s edition copies available and are perfect for Christmas gifts. Telephone the shop for availability and postage. 01398 324457.
My thanks to the publisher Hamish Hamilton for the review copy of The House Without Windows by Barbara Newhall Follett and Jackie Morris. Published on 3rd October 2019 and is available to through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
THE 2019 WAINWRIGHT GOLDEN BEER BOOK PRIZE SHORTLIST
At 9am on the 2nd July the shortlist for this year’s Wainwright Golden Beer Shortlist was announced. Now in its Sixth year, The Wainwright Book Prize is my favourite book prize of the year. This is a book prize which celebrates the best writing about nature, the outdoors and UK travel.
Never before has writing about nature and the great outdoors been so significant and important. Our landscape and the natural world is under increasing pressure from many areas. So how wonderful it is to see the Wainwright Book Prize grow year on year.
This year there are seven titles that make up the shortlist.
Underland by Robert Macfarlane (Hamish Hamilton)
Wilding by Isabella Tree (Picador)
Time Song by Julia Blackburn (Jonathan Cape)
Our Place by Mark Cocker (Jonathan Cape)
Thinking On My Feet by Kate Humble (Aster)
Out Of The Woods by Luke Turner (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
The Easternmost House by Juliet Blaxland (Sandstone Press)
So lets take a closer look at the titles that make up this years outstanding shortlist:
Underland by Robert Macfarlane
Discover the hidden worlds beneath our feet…
In Underland, Robert Macfarlane takes us on a journey into the worlds beneath our feet. From the ice-blue depths of Greenland’s glaciers, to the underground networks by which trees communicate, from Bronze Age burial chambers to the rock art of remote Arctic sea-caves, this is a deep-time voyage into the planet’s past and future. Global in its geography, gripping in its voice and haunting in its implications, Underland is a work of huge range and power, and a remarkable new chapter in Macfarlane’s long-term exploration of landscape and the human heart.
I reviewed Underland in issue 34 of Word Gets Around.
Just imagine for one moment the world beneath your feet. In Underland best-selling writer Robert Macfarlane author of many books on our natural world including The Wild Places and Landmarks and also The Lost Words now takes us on an adventure deep underground. This is a book were past and its future are all here. From the Bronze Age burial chambers of the Mendips in Somerset to the glaziers of Greenland, the catacombs of Paris, Arctic sea caves to a point deep sunk hiding place where nuclear waste will be stored for 100,000 years.
The much-anticipated sequel to The Old Ways Robert Macfarlane now takes the reader on an unforgettable voyage exploring our relationship with darkness and what lies beneath. There is wonder, loss, fear and hope deep within the pages of Underland.
‘Into the underland we have long placed that which we fear and wish to lose, and that which we love and wish to save…’
It is hard to imagine a world that exits deep beneath us but that is exactly what there is. A truly remarkable book of discovery the reader will explore many themes including myth and literature as we travel the globe and discover a whole new world. Robert Macfarlane’s writing is both lyrical and breath-taking. A book that has opened even my eyes and will have a profound effect on how we see our precious world. The powerful cover was designed by the acclaimed artist and writer Stanley Donwood.
Wilding by Isabella Tree
In Wilding, Isabella Tree tells the story of the ‘Knepp experiment’, a pioneering rewilding project in West Sussex, using free-roaming grazing animals to create new habitats for wildlife. Part gripping memoir, part fascinating account of the ecology of our countryside, Wilding is, above all, an inspiring story of hope.
Forced to accept that intensive farming on the heavy clay of their land at Knepp was economically unsustainable, Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell made a spectacular leap of faith: they decided to step back and let nature take over. Thanks to the introduction of free-roaming cattle, ponies, pigs and deer – proxies of the large animals that once roamed Britain – the 3,500 acre project has seen extraordinary increases in wildlife numbers and diversity in little over a decade.
Extremely rare species, including turtle doves, nightingales, peregrine falcons, lesser spotted woodpeckers and purple emperor butterflies, are now breeding at Knepp, and populations of other species are rocketing. The Burrells’ degraded agricultural land has become a functioning ecosystem again, heaving with life – all by itself.
Personal and inspirational, Wilding is an astonishing account of the beauty and strength of nature, when it is given as much freedom as possible.
Time Song: Searching for Doggerland by Julia Blackburn
Julia Blackburn has always collected things that hold stories about the past, especially the very distant past: mammoth bones, little shells that happen to be two million years old, a flint shaped as a weapon long ago. Time Song brings many such stories together as it tells of the creation, the existence and the loss of a country now called Doggerland, a huge and fertile area that once connected the entire east coast of England with mainland Europe, until it was finally submerged by rising sea levels around 5000 BC.
Blackburn mixes fragments from her own life with a series of eighteen ‘songs’ and all sorts of stories about the places and the people she meets in her quest to get closer to an understanding of Doggerland. She sees the footprints of early humans fossilised in the soft mud of an estuary alongside the scattered pockmarks made by rain falling eight thousand years ago. She visits a cave where the remnants of a Neanderthal meal have turned to stone. In Denmark she sits beside Tollund Man who seems to be about to wake from a dream, even though he has lain in a peat bog since the start of the Iron Age.
Time Song reveals yet again, that Julia Blackburn is one of the most original writers in Britain, with each of its pages bringing a surprise, an epiphany, a phrase of such beauty and simple profundity you can only gasp.
Our Place: Can We Save Britain’s Wildlife Before It Is Too Late? by Mark Cocker
Environmental thought and politics have become parts of mainstream cultural life in Britain. The wish to protect wildlife is now a central goal for our society, but where did these ‘green’ ideas come from? And who created the cherished institutions, such as the National Trust or the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, that are now so embedded in public life with millions of members?
From the flatlands of Norfolk to the tundra-like expanse of the Flow Country in northern Scotland, acclaimed writer on nature Mark Cocker sets out on a personal quest through the British countryside to find the answers to these questions.
He explores in intimate detail six special places that embody the history of conservation or whose fortunes allow us to understand why our landscape looks as it does today. We meet key characters who shaped the story of the British countryside – Victorian visionaries like Octavia Hill, founder of the National Trust, as well as brilliant naturalists such as Max Nicholson or Derek Ratcliffe, who helped build the very framework for all environmental effort.
This is a book that looks to the future as well as exploring the past. It asks searching questions like who owns the land and why? And who benefits from green policies? Above all it attempts to solve a puzzle: why do the British seem to love their countryside more than almost any other nation, yet they have come to live amid one of the most denatured landscapes on Earth? Radical, provocative and original, Our Place tackles some of the central issues of our time. Yet most important of all, it tries to map out how this overcrowded island of ours could be a place fit not just for human occupants but also for its billions of wild citizens.
Thinking on My Feet: The small joy of putting one foot in front of another by Kate Humble
Thinking on My Feet tells the story of Kate’s walking year – shining a light on the benefits of this simple activity. Kate’s inspiring narrative not only records her walks (and runs) throughout a single year, but also charts her feelings and impressions throughout – capturing the perspectives that only a journey on foot allows – and shares the outcomes: a problem solved, a mood lifted, an idea or opportunity borne. As she explores the reasons why we walk, whether for creative energy, challenge and pleasure, or therapeutic benefits, Kate’s reflections and insights will encourage, motivate and spur readers into action.
Also featured are Kate’s walks with others who have discovered the magical, soothing effect of putting one foot in front of the other – the artist who walks to find inspiration for his next painting; the man who takes people battling with addiction to climb mountains; the woman who walked every footpath in Wales (3,700 miles) when she discovered she had cancer.
This book will inspire you to change your perspective by applying walking to your daily endeavours.
This is a book I am currently reading and thoroughly enjoying. I can see why so many people really took this book to their hearts.
Out of the Woods by Luke Turner
(Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
After the disintegration of the most significant relationship of his life, the demons Luke Turner has been battling since childhood are quick to return – depression and guilt surrounding his identity as a bisexual man, experiences of sexual abuse, and the religious upbringing that was the cause of so much confusion. It is among the trees of London’s Epping Forest where he seeks refuge. But once a place of comfort, it now seems full of unexpected, elusive threats that trigger twisted reactions.
No stranger to compulsion, Luke finds himself drawn again and again to the woods, eager to uncover the strange secrets that may be buried there as he investigates an old family rumour of illicit behaviour. Away from a society that still struggles to cope with the complexities of masculinity and sexuality, Luke begins to accept the duality that has provoked so much unrest in his life – and reconcile the expectations of others with his own way of being.
OUT OF THE WOODS is a dazzling, devastating and highly original memoir about the irresistible yet double-edged potency of the forest, and the possibility of learning to find peace in the grey areas of life.
The eEasternmost House by Juliet Blaxland
Within the next three years, Juliet Blaxland’s home will be demolished, and the land where it now stands will crumble into the North Sea. In her numbered days living in the Easternmost House, Juliet fights to maintain the rural ways she grew up with, re-connecting with the beauty, usefulness and erratic terror of the natural world.
The Easternmost House is a stunning memoir, describing a year on the Easternmost edge of England, and exploring how we can preserve delicate ecosystems and livelihoods in the face of rapid coastal erosion and environmental change.
I really envy the judges trying to find a winner from this years incredible shortlist. Seven books that are all worthy winners.
This years winner will be announced on August 15th at the BBC Countryfile Live at Castle Howard, Yorkshire.
Last years winner was won by Adam Nicolson for The Seabirds Cry (William Collins).
2014 – The Green Road into Trees: A Walk Through England by Hugh Thomson
2015 – Meadowland: The Private Life of an English Field by John Lewis-Stempel
2016 – The Outrun by Amy Liptrot
2017 – Where Poppies Blow: The British Soldier, Nature, The Great War by John Lewis-Stempel
2018- The Seabird’s Cry by Adam Nicholson
The 2019 Judges:
Chair: Julia Bradbury
Waterstones Non-fiction buyer: Clement Knox
National Trust Publisher: Katie Bond
Publisher at Unbound and Blacklisted Podcast Host: John Mitchinson
The Urban Birder: David Lindo
Creative Partner for And Rising
Follow news about The Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize on Twitter: @wainwrightprize
Where Reasons End by Yiyun Li
There are many conversations we have in life and some that are difficult but at the same time there are conversations that none of us want to have. In Where Reasons End by Yiyun Li (Hamish Hamilton) is a deeply moving account of a mother having a conversation with her son who took his own life.
It is understandable that some may find this an uncomfortable book to pick up and read, but what I would say is do not be put off, this is a remarkable story that is being told. The narrator is a Chinese – American writer and it was her son Nikolai who was full of life took his own life, leaving his mother to try and understand why.
Soon after her son’s death a conversation begins between them and it is an extended conversation and sometimes Nikolai would seem to be a little harsh on his mother. We start to learn about Nikolai and what he really enjoyed in life but also the pain that was clearly there. As I was reading I guess I fell into a trap expecting to learn why Nikolai took his own life but it is his mother who talks of life after her son is gone. There are many questions in life and sometimes no matter how hard we try answers are never found.
I have been very lucky to have read many great books so far this year but there is something here that is just remarkable, there is no doubt it is an incredibly sad novel to read but Where Reasons End is nothing short of a masterpiece of a novel. As a writer Yiyun Li is at the top of her game as a writer and one everyone who loves writers should be shouting her name from every rooftop.
Of course this is a book that pour out grief and unspeakable pain and it should be, but this conversation that takes place is in a place that none of us want ever to visit.
There is real sadness about Where Reasons End when you understand Yiyun Li’s own life. Do writers sometimes write to escape? I don’t fully know the answer to that question but I would seriously recommend reading Where Reasons End.
Thank you to Hamish Hamilton for the review copy of Where Reasons End by Yiyun Li.
Where Reasons End by Yiyun Li was published by Hamish Hamilton and was published on 7th February 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
As another year comes to a close we look back on 2018 and the news might be full of bad news but in the world of books it has been another great year. Sales are continuing to grow in both physical hard copy but audio books are also booming. This really is great news and added to this more independent books shops have opened during the year with the trend set to continue. With the high street struggling like never before it is just heartening to see the growth of sales in books. Just a few years ago some were saying the days of the hard copy book were doomed.
2018 will be a year that I will remember for years to come. So many great books have been read some sadly I have not had time to read and will miss this end of year review. I look back with great memories to take away from this year whether it the honour of being asked blog about some of the books and authors for The 2018 Jewish Book Festival to being invited to assist with a very special book On Courage: Stories of Victoria Cross and George Cross Holders a day surrounded by some of the bravest men and women. Real heroes. Also to be involved with The Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize a book prize that is dedicated to books on natural history and the great outdoors. Then of course there was The Lost Words project I launched for Somerset Primary Schools in August which is still going to this very day. The generosity of many that made this a success. To those behind the scenes who helped and are still helping I could not have done this without you. To the many radio interviews not just in Somerset but across the UK and also in Europe. In the early part of the Summer I was invited to take a tour of The London Library which turned out to be an incredible experience a very special place that holds over one million books on over 17 miles of shelving. You walk in the footsteps of literary giants.
So this brings me to my 15 books of 2018. The books that made my year. This was incredibly hard as so many could have made it in.
The choices are in no particular order so there is no number one book just the best of the year.
Our House – Louise Candlish
(Simon & Schuster) 5th April 2018
Fi Lawson arrives home to find strangers moving into her house. The terror of knowing your life is about to be turned upside down and all the possessions of your life with Bram have gone and who are these people moving into the home they never had any intention of selling. Bram has made a dreadful mistake and there is a price to pay. Now there are score to settle. Both have secrets that they kept from each other.
Our House is a gripping domestic noir read that I recall racing through and kept up long into the night.
All Among the Barley – Melissa Harrison
(Bloomsbury) – 23rd August 2018
With memories of The Great War still in the minds and memories of the community it casts a shadow across the fields as the autumn harvest approaches. It is 1933 the glamorous Constance arrives from London to write about the traditions of the Suffolk farming community. For Edie Mather adulthood is approaching and the arrival of Constance is seen by Edie to be everything she longs for. But there is something more to Constance than Edie thinks. This is a remarkable and powerful novel from the Costa Shortlisted author of Hawthorn Time.
Three Things About Elsie – Joanna Cannon
(The Borough Press – 11th January 2018
With a Battenburg cover Three Things About Elsie is just a wonderful and delicious story. 84-Year-old Florence has had a fall and as she lies there waiting for help to come she wonders if some part of her past is come back. Florence lives in a flat at Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly and she wonders if the new resident is who he claims to be as he died sixty years ago. It is a beautiful, charming and profound novel from the author of The Trouble with Goats and Sheep. Three Things About Elsie was longlisted for The Women’s Prize for Fiction 2018.
Something of His Art – Horatio Clare
(Little Toller Books) – 11th October 2018
The year is 1705 and the yet unknown Johann Sebastian Bach is earning a living as a teacher and organist sets off on more than a 250 mile walk from Arnstadt to Lübeck to visit a composer. This was to be a pivotal time for the young J.S. Bach and this short book tells of his walk and Horatio Clare walks in his footsteps and re-traces that walk that was to change Bach’s life. Based on the BBC Radio 3 series of the same Horatio talks of the walk, the sights, and sounds and natural history that would have accompanied Bach on this epic adventure that would see him become the greatest composer.
The Lost Letters of William Woolf – Helen Cullen
(Michael Joseph) – 12th July 2018
William Woolf works for the Dead Letters Depot in East London were he spends his days solving mysteries that include terrible hand writing, missing post codes, torn packages to name but a few. Then he discovers letters addressed to ‘My Great Love’ and suddenly life for William Woolf takes on a whole new perspective. These letters written by a woman to a man she has not met yet, and William now starts to think that he could be the man the letters are meant for. Now he must take on his biggest mystery to follow the clues in the letters and solve the biggest mystery of all. The human heart. This is a charming and romantic novel a wonderful debut. Shortlisted for the Newcomer of the Year – Irish Book Awards.
The Wood: The Life and Times of Cockshutt Wood – John Lewis-Stempel
(Doubleday) – 8th March 2018
For four years John Lewis-Stempel managed a mixed woodland of three and a half acres that is Cockshutt Wood and raised cows and pigs that had free reign through these woods. This is John’s month by month account of his last year managing the wood. Through the lives of the trees and the birds and animals that made this wood their home a sanctuary for the wildlife and also for the author. You are there through the changing seasons through to the final days of John’s management of the woods that became his spiritual home. This is a man in tune with the natural world and one of the country’s finest natural history writers. Longlisted for the Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize 2018.
Anatomy of a Scandal – Sarah Vaughan
(Simon & Schuster) 11th January 2018
A scandal that will rock Westminster. This is a high profile marriage and James has been accused of a shocking crime and his wife Sophie believes in him and will protect the family. Kate on the other hand is the Barrister who believes he is guilty and will make sure he pays for the crimes he has committed.
This is an explosive thriller that will keep the reader on the edge of their chair until the very end. Superbly written with great characters. A story of marriage and power and who has it and how they use it. Totally absorbing and gripping.
The Last Wilderness – Neil Ansell
(Tinder Press) – 8th February 2018
Nature and solitude. Neil Ansell has spent the best part of his life walking the remote parts of Britain but here in The Last Wilderness he takes on the part of Scottish Highlands but doing so as he talks of his hearing loss and hoe this affects his love of the great outdoors and the birds he loved to hear that have now become silent. To be in the wilderness is to be at one with nature. It is indeed a love letter to both the wilderness and to the Highlands of Scotland. The wonderful rich writing of Neill Ansell almost makes you believe you are there walking in his footsteps. A treasure of a book. Shortlisted for The Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize 2018.
I Love You Too Much – Alicia Drake
(Picador) – 8th February 2018
A novel based in Paris and centred around Paul a quiet and lonely boy who is unloved. He spends his time watching those in his family and his rather glamourous mother Séverine and her musician boyfriend Gabriel. For a boy who closely observes his family and their daily lives, you just know one day he will see something he is not supposed to see.
Paul seeks the friendship of the not so quiet Scarlett and the patisseries of this part of Paris. Paul is crying out to be loved but what if love does not come his way. What then? This is a book I totally loved and still do to this day. So deserving to be read by a wider audience. It is deft and intelligent and so beautifully told. One book I would I would recommend.
Erebus: A story of a Ship – Michael Palin
(Hutchinson Books) – 20th September 2018
Michael Palin tells the story of the ill-fated journey of HMS Erebus and its crew that set sail for the arctic in search of the North West Passage. In 1845 it disappeared with HMS Terror along with their crews. What really happened? A story of the ship and its crew as Palin recounts the adventure and ultimately the biggest naval disaster. Together with photographs this makes for a remarkable read for anyone who has an interest in the sea or adventures.
Dark Pines – Will Dean
(Point Blank) – 14th June 2018
An impressive debut by Will Dean. Dark Pines is dark, chilling and atmospheric. Set in an isolated Swedish town. An unsolved murder from two decades ago a deaf reporter trying to find a story that could make her career. Now Tuva needs to find the killer before she becomes the killers next target. But there are secrets in the pine woods were Tuva must venture. If she solves the crime she could find a way out of the small of Gavrik and finally make a name for herself. Dark Pines is the thriller that really beats all thrillers in 2018 and is the first in a series with Red Snow about to be released in January 2019. If I had to choose my book of the year Dark Pines would be that book. If you have not read Dark Pines and thrillers are your genre, then read it now!
Owl Sense – Dr Miriam Darlington
(Guardian Faber Publishing) 8th February 2018
I have been fascinated by Owls all my life and have been lucky to have travelled and seen many species of Owl in Europe, Africa and the Caribbean and I loved Owl Sense by Miriam Darlington she takes walks with her son seeking species of UK Owls. Then she travels into Europe from France to Spain, Serbia and Finland and close to the arctic lands of snow and ice. But this book not only is a story of a quest for Owls but her son Benji becomes very ill and then suddenly it is also a quest for a cure. Owl Sense brings to life the mysterious lives of Owls and what we are so fascinated with these mysterious birds.
The Lingering – SJI Holliday
(Orenda Books) – 15th November 2018
This dark and creepy ghost story is best read during the dark hours as it really sets the tone. Though you might not want to switch the light off after.
Jack and Ali move have moved into a self-sufficient commune set in Rosalind House, the local village it is said is were witches roamed and the home itself has a dark and sinister past. But it is not long after they arrive that things start to happen. Now the residents and locals are nervous, something or someone is seeking retribution. But why? Terrifying and unnerving. The Lingering really had me spooked. Superbly written and a storyline that holds until the very end.
Take Nothing With You – Patrick Gale
(Tinder Press) – 21st August 2018
Set in the 1970’s West-Super-Mare and only son Eustace has been signed up for Cello lessons by his mother. Music is an escape for Eustace and his lessons from his teacher he cannot get enough of. But it is his mother that is not sure of the glamorous teacher. Soon though it is lessons in life and love that take on whole new meanings for Eustace. This is beautifully told story of coming of age and finding out who you really are told with real compassion. A truly wonderful read.
The Lost Words – Robert Macfarlane & Jackie Morris
(Hamish Hamilton) – 5th October 2017
After everything this year, I could not leave The Lost Words out of my selection for the year. It has been the bedrock of my year.
Imagine a world where children no longer talk of Heron’s, Otters, Bluebells, Acorns, Conkers, Dandelion, Bramble to name but a few. Well there are around 50 words that The Oxford Dictionary for Children removed. What they did not reckon on was Jackie Morris and Robert Macfarlane. Here is the most beautiful book imaginable. In words spoken as Spell-Poems and paintings by the amazing Jackie Morris they both bring these words back to life.
Many people across the country have raised hundreds of thousands of pounds to bring this book in into Schools, care homes and hospitals. Even today many more are planned to launch. A truly remarkable book that has a life all of its own. And this story for Somerset has only just begun.
And so there we have it. As the old year ends and a new one is about to begin and so it starts all over again. It has been a pleasure and an honour to work with such incredible writers and publishers and I thank them all for their incredible work.
In 2019 I have some great plans ahead I am honoured to have been asked to be an official blogger for The Jewish Book Festival in early March. I will be podcasting through the year and hope to take the podcast on the road to talk to writers and may be a few publishers. I will be doing my usual book giveaways when time permits and also there will be The Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize.
Have a happy and peaceful 2019 and remember “We read to know that we are not alone”. Books take us to places and to escape all the bad news of the day.
The Last Word Book Review
Crowdfunding to get The Lost Words into Somerset’s Primary School’s
The Oxford Children’s Dictionary decided to remove around 50 words that connect children and British Wildlife, words such as Otter, Dandelion, Bluebell, Kingfisher, Conker to name a few, the award winning writer Robert Macfarlane and artist Jackie Morris got together and came up with a fantastic idea that has swept across the country and taken a life of its own. The Lost Words (Hamish Hamilton) came into being.
With spell-poems by Robert Macfarlane and the stunning artwork by Jackie Morris brings together just some of those words that would have been missing from children’s vocabulary. Nature at such a young age is so important. It was over 40 years ago that I was inspired by nature just by sights and sounds and words read in a book. All these years later nature and wildlife still bring the many pleasures and joys to me. The health benefits of being outdoors and being and being close to nature at a young age can spur a love of wildlife that may last a lifetime and who knows to their children.
It was not long after The Lost Words was released and people started to take the book to their hearts and then it began. First in Scotland. In early 2018 Jane Beaton raised £25,000 to get a copy of The Lost Words into every school in Scotland. This was the spur and The Lost Words is now a movement and around the country there are at present fifteen fund raising campaigns to get The Lost Words into school’s and the words back into children’s lives. It is a movement of love and the work and dedication of everyone involved really has moved moved me. It is uplifting and inspiring.
Over recent months I have been close to the Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize and I was delighted to see this remarkable book reach the longlist. Then to see it reach the shortlist and with a chance of winning the Wainwright Book Prize. I attended the shortlist party and spoke with Robert Macfarlane about The Lost Words and I know how much the campaigns mean to him. The the prize winning event earlier in August I spoke with the artist Jackie Morris about my initial idea of raising enough money to get a copy into Somerset’s Primary School’s.
On the morning of 15th August I launched my Crowdfunding page to raise £2,500.00 which would mean that I would be able to place a copy of The Lost Words into each of the 242 Primary School’s in Somerset. I am extremely grateful to Penguin/Random House for giving me a very special price of £9.60 rather than the cover price of £20.00 which helps keep the target figure to £2,500.00.
This is were I need your help. I have until 10th October to raise the funds, and I would be extremely grateful for any donations that you can give.
The Lost Words Artist Jackie Morris has very kindly donated three special prints. If you donate £75.00 you can select a word and Jackie will create this word written in Otter. I have seen some of these and they are rather special. There is only three available. When they are gone they are gone. Jackie has also very kindly donated a small Inked Otter print. If you donate £5.00 or more you will automatically be entered into the draw to win this Small Inked Otter print.
Please spread the word far and wide the more people know the better chance we have of achieving our target.
I hope you can help and pledge to support The Lost Words for Somerset’s Primary School’s.
Thank you for reading.