Category Archives: W&N Publishing
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 Poppies Blow by John Lewis-Stempel
To be invited along to see the announcement of the winning book/author in this year’s Wainwrights Golden Beer Book Prize held at Blenheim Palace during Countryfile Live was a real honour. I was privileged to meet most of the writers both before and after the prize ceremony. I said during the run up to the day that the 2017 prize was the toughest yet as the quality of the writing is just an exceptional high standard and gets better and better every year. One of the writers on this year’s shortlist was John Lewis-Stempel who had two books with The Running Hare and Where Poppies Blow listed and it was in the end his book Where Poppies Blow came out as the winner of the 2017 Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize.
Many books have been written of the horrors of The Great War and the hell that the soldiers endured. My bookshelves are filled with books on WWI and also natural history but I have not yet come across a book that takes a look at how the British soldiers explored nature during the darkest years of 1914-18. They lived in nature it was in fact all around them and in Where Poppies Blow John Lewis- Stempel explores the soldier’s relationship with the plants and animals and how nature helped to fill the hours and days of the men that filled the trenches. From those who kept logs of the birds and plants they saw to the men who kept gardens as a reminder of home. Nature has a way of enduring like no other. To endure the hell of the trenches in The Great War the men needed something to take their minds off the horror they witnessed on a daily basis. Britain sent over five million men to the battlefields during those years but one fact that many may not understand was just how many horses, mules and donkeys were sent to aid the war effort, in total more than two million with many of them dying in such dreadful conditions. But without these animals Britain would not have been able to have continued the war. Many of the men cared deeply about their horses in their charge and here in Where Poppies Blow there is a chapter dedicated to the bravery of these animals with words and poems.
In Flanders Fields, the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
When you read how the British Soldiers kept both flower garden and also vegetable garden and held show to decide winners this was both to keep up morale and the reminder of home life and in fact the growing vegetables helped feed the men in the trenches. There are chapters also on men and how they kept notebooks on the daily bird sightings and even nesting birds despite the shelling. To hear Larks singing in between the fighting must have been on one hand been calming and on another near impossible. Nature carried on despite the hell that was The Great War. Nature had a way of healing it was all around them from the Poppies of the battlefields to the Skylarks that sang while shells rained down.
Where Poppies Blow is a truly remarkable insight to life of the British soldier during The Great War and a side that many will have never known. John Lewis-Stempel has written many books on both natural history and also military history and this deserves its place among the best. The Wainwright chair of judges Julia Bradbury described Where Poppies Blow as “an extraordinary book about the healing power and resilience of nature in the darkest of times”
This is a remarkable and moving book and one that I whole-heartedly recommend. The poems alone will move you to tears. This is the second time that John Lewis-Stempel has won the Wainwrights Golden Beer Book Prize. He previously won it in 2015 with Meadowland (Transworld).
Thank you to Laura Creyke at the Wainwright Prize for the advanced review copy of Where Poppies Blow and all of the books on the 2017 Wainwright Prize
Where Poppies Blow by John Lewis-Stempel is published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops. The Paperback will be released on 14th September.
As we come to the end of July a real sense of excitement for me as one of my favourite book prizes of the year announcements is just a few days away. The Wainwright Book Prize 2017 in association with The National Trust is an award that celebrates the very best in writing about Nature and the great outdoors. One of my boyhood heroes was Alfred Wainwright and I have spent many hours just reading those wonderful iconic Pictorial Guides to the fells of the Lake District. It is no secret that one of my favourite genres in books is nature and the outdoors and my bookshelves are filled to capacity with some of the great books on these subjects. There is nothing better than being out in wilderness whether that is just being at one with nature or just admiring the stunning beautiful wild places that we have in our countryside from the mountains and islands of Scotland to the fells of the Lakes and the valleys of Wales and not forgetting our hardworking farmers. These are places to rejoice and to treasure now but above all for future generations. We are the caretakers and must preserve for our children and theirs to come.
I was honoured to have been given the opportunity to read all the books that make up The Wainwright Book Prize shortlist for 2017. I am still reading through the books and my personal reviews will appear soon. On the 27th June the shortlist was announced and on Thursday 3rd August direct from the BBC Countryfile live show the judges will announce this year’s winners. You can of course read more about the award and the judges chaired by TV’s Julia Bradbury on the website The Wainwright Prize Ahead of the announcement I thought I would give you just give a little introduction into the seven books that make up the shortlist.
The Wainwright Book Prize Shortlist 2017:
The January Man (A Year of Walking Britain) by Christopher Somerville (Doubleday)
The Running Hare by John Lewis-Stempel (Doubleday)
Love of Country (A Hebridean Journey) by Madeleine Bunting (Granta)
The Otters’ Tale by Simon Cooper (William Collins)
Wild Kingdom by Stephen Moss (Vintage)
The Wild Other by Clover Stroud (Hodder & Stoughton)
Where Poppies Blow by John Lewis-Stempel (W&N)
Previous Winners of The Wainwright Book Prize.
2016: The Outrun by Amy Liptrot (Canongate Books)
2015: Meadowland by John Lewis-Stempel (Transworld Publishers)
2014: The Green Road into Trees: A Walk Through England by Hugh Thompson (Windmill/Random House)
The 2017 Shortlisted Books
The January Man – A Year Walking of Britain by Christopher Somerville
This is the story of a year of walking around Britain and was in fact inspired by the song of the same name by Dave Goulder. The author sets off on a journey of discovery with memories of his late father walks that would cover all four seasons from all four corners of Britain from the Scottish isles to forests and vales. This in itself is a hope that readers will don their walking boots and grab their walking poles and explore the length and breadth of our country and the rich natural history and landscapes regardless of the vagaries of the British weather.
Rich not only in its descriptions but the exquisite writing of Christopher Somerville who has written thirty-six books.
The Otter’s Tale by Simon Cooper
For those like me who remember reading Tarka the Otter by Henry Williamson then The Otter’s Tale by Simon Cooper will also surely appeal. Simon bought what was an abandoned water mill in Southern England and then go on to share his home and his life with a family of wild Otters.
What this enabled Simon Cooper to achieve was to observe one of this country most secretive of mammals and he did so at very close quarters. The family allowed the author to become a member of their own family and in turn this gives the reader a personal and unique insight into the lives of the Otters in what turned out to be an extraordinary relationship of trust between Otter and man the close relationship between Simon and the female Otter called Kuschta is incredibly close and personal.
Within this story Simon Cooper also discusses the natural history of Otters here in the UK and a mammal that was once so persecuted that it was very close to being extinct in this country. A year in the life of not only Simon Cooper but also a beautiful insight to a family of Otters that shared the life of the author.
Love of Country – A Hebridean Journey by Madeleine Bunting
Some of my happiest of memories are those when I have been walking on some of the islands of the Western Coast of Scotland. Just mention the names of some of the islands like Jura, St. Kilda, Lewis, Harris, Sky, Rum and so many more. Each rich in their own history and also natural history. Here Madeleine Bunting a former Guardian journalist takes us on a journey that took six years to complete. Each time she would return there was more history and culture to uncover more islands to explore. The history of these islands shapes our countries history even today. The author not only explores but also asks questions. This is a wonderful travel companion if you are heading to one of the islands for a holiday. Read before you go and read while you are there as there is so much to read and learn. A wonderful book.
The Running Hare by John Lewis-Stempel
A former winner of the Wainwright Book Prize this year has two books on the Shortlist, the first titled The Running Hare looks at life on a farmland, the wild animals and plants that life on it and in it. This is an extraordinary piece of writing and you can see why this writer is so acclaimed. With so many species lost, this is a farmer who took a field and farmed it in a traditional way to conserve the wildlife that inhabit our fields. He talks about the birds that feed off the land and microbes that live in the land each having their own battle to survive modern practices. In fast paced modern world can farming go back to old practices to husband farmland thereby protecting the wildlife that also share the same farmland. A Place were the wild Hare can call home and live safely. Beautifully written and profound. A book that will stand the test of time and will be read by future generations to come. This is one of the great nature writers of our time.
The Wild Other by Clover Stroud
A deeply moving memoir from Clover Stroud about a life that was shaped by a tragic accident to her mother when Clover was only sixteen-years-old. Her mother was left with brain damage after a riding accident. Clover found herself from gypsy camps in Ireland to rodeos of Texas then to the far reaches of Russia before the White Horse vale of England brought her home to England. These journeys she took in the name of trying to understand a sense of home that was left shattered and broken. A remarkable and deeply honest account of loss and love. Nature has the power to heal the wounds that seem never to heal and here in The Wild Other Clover Stroud tells her personal story that is full of bravery and a life lived to the full. At times frank Clover reveals all in this haunting memoir that will both move and inspire the reader.
Wild Kingdom by Stephen Moss
Stephen Moss is the acclaimed naturalist, writer and TV producer. Here in Wild Kingdom Stephen Moss at times is frank about this countries disappearing wildlife and asks some important questions about the land we share with the animals the Britain. It is not all bad news, just look at how Otters are now doing. But many others are not faring so well and Moss poses the question how can we bring back Britain’s wildlife. With intensive farming practices and housing developments taking over and wildlife being squeezed out of their natural homes something has to give and the wildlife suffers as a consequence. There has to be room for both man and wildlife to life in harmony. Rewilding is a term we may yet start to hear more of in the years ahead. So many questions are posed here. Moss takes us on a journey from farmland to wetlands from one part of the country to another. He knows what he is talking about and there is so much to understand. Common sense is key. If we care about our wildlife we can make a difference. It is not all bad news there is much to praise but there is not resting on laurels as there is work to do. Generations to come will point to our generation if we do not. This is so well written by a man who is passionate about the future of our wildlife.
Where Poppies Blow by John Lewis-Stempel
Where Poppies Blow is the second book by John Lewis-Stempel in this year’s Shortlist along with his The Running Hare. We all know of the horrors of the Great War. But in this book the author takes the connection between the British soldiers fighting in the Great War and the animals and plants and the relationships between them.
For many soldiers living inside the land they were close to nature as you can possibly get, many soldiers sought solace in the birds and plants around them, at desperate times it provided both peace and solace in a place of sheer hell. Many soldiers indeed were birdwatchers and there are stories of officers and men fishing in flooded shell craters. Here you will read of soldiers planting flower beds in trenches, this sounds truly remarkable but John Lewis-Stempel has researched this book and brings to life the incredible stories of fighting men and nature and in the end the cure that only nature can bring in its purest form. There is a quote on the inside of the book that just sums up what the men went through. ‘If it weren’t for the birds, what a hell it would be’. A remarkable book that will take pride of place among the many natural history books in my book case.
I have been following The Wainwright Book Prize now for a number of years and I believe this has to be the strongest of the shortlists yet. The quality of the writing is just outstanding. I am not sure if it is just me but it just gets stronger and stronger every year. I really do not envy the judges in their decision, but every one of these seven books is a real candidate to win the prize. Could John Lewis-Stempel win the prize again? I just have a feeling The Running Hare is going to be the book to look out for on Thursday. I would love to hear your views on the shortlist and if you have a favourite to win. I will of course be following the prize announcement as and when it happens and will Tweet the winning book as soon as I know over on my Twitter page The Last Word 1962 I will be reviewing each of the books in the coming weeks.
The First Thing You See by Gregoire Delacourt
Review Date: 1 September 2015
Author: Gregoire Delacourt
Release Date: 10 September 2015
Publishers: W&N Publishers
ISBN –10: 0297871021
ISBN – 13: 0297871026
Available in Hardback, Kindle and audio
The Last Word Review
Gorgeous novel about two troubled souls who are not all they seem, both seeking happiness. A tender love story. Just try putting this one down
First released in 2013 in France following on from his best-selling The List of My Desires. Now translated into English is going to become his latest best-seller.
Delacourt’s latest novel follows a young mechanic Arthur Dreyfuss who lives a quiet simple life in the village of Long, France.
Arthur’s life seems to follow a routine with little chance of finding his true love. One evening there is a knock on the door and when Arthur opens it is a life changing moment. There standing in front of him is Scarlett Johansson the famous Hollywood actress. But all is not as it seems she is an imposter and her real name is Jeanine Foucamprez,
At first Jeanine plays the part so very well and Arthur falls for this and also for Scarlett and her ample breasts, to the point he becomes infatuated with them, but soon sees beyond this and to the real person. What we have here in The First Thing You See is a very tender love story. With some witty and humorous moments.
The thing about the Jeanine is that she has led a very different life to that of the famous Hollywood actress and little by little she lets her guard down. Arthur falls for the actress but little by little then falls for the real woman in Jeanine Foucamprez and the real person on the inside.
Jeanine has led a troubled life an object of desire for men as they see her as a sex object and women are just jealous of her looks. I really felt for Jeanine as all she wanted a normal life and just to be loved for who she really is not what people just see. You have to look inside to find the real person. For the first time she has found that in Arthur he cute and as much as he has desires for her he makes no moves until she is ready.
As you read through The First Thing You See, there are little hints as to what is to come for both characters, I liked the way Delacourt used narration in his latest offering it really does bring out the storyline.
The author has used various massages through the story about who we are and does happiness really last. As to Arthur and Jeanine I am not going to give away the remaining part of the story. You will have to read that for yourself.
This is a short story that can be read in a day and is the perfect Sunday read in bed with a pot of coffee and warm Croissants.
There is a twist to this book, the real Scarlett Johansson took offence to her name being used in the book and sued for fraudulent and illicit use of her name as well as claims about her personal life and wanted an injunction placed on the book. That aspect of the case failed. Though a number of lines from the original version have been omitted. Interesting thought is that if the book was first released in the states, no court case would have been allowed under the First Amendment rule.
This is beautiful tender love story and is really worth the read it is hard not to fall for both flawed leading characters and their search for love and happiness.
I would like to thank Sam Eades and Weidenfeld & Nicolson for a review copy.
Meet the Author
Grégoire Delacourt was born in Valenciennes in 1960. His first novel, L’ÉCRIVAIN DE LA FAMILLE, was published in 2011 and won five literary prizes, including the PRIX MARCEL PAGNOL and the PRIX RIVE GAUCHE. He is the author of THE LIST OF MY DESIRES, a runaway No.1 bestseller in France, with rights sold in 27 countries.