Flash Reviews: Non-Fiction (20th June 2014)


Findings by Kathleen Jamie ****
1. I have wanted to read Kathleen Jamie’s work for such a long time.  She is both a poet and a nature writer, and I seized upon Findings when I found it in the library.  Throughout, Jamie describes her travels in Scotland, demonstrating the power of the country’s landscapes upon her, and upon the wildlife which inhabits it.
2. Throughout, Jamie touches upon so many elements of nature – the use of darkness in respect to harbouring evils, Neolithic remains, the way in which technology has infiltrated even the oldest sites, whale watching, and the specimens inside Edinburgh’s Surgeon’s Hall are just a few examples of the essays she has written here.
3. Findings, as I expected it to be, is absolutely fascinating, and the photographs throughout add so much to each essay.

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The Last Fighting Tommy by Harry Patch and Richard van Emden ***
1. My boyfriend’s grandparents gave me this book an age ago, and it only came out of my book choice jar last month.  Patch has passed away since The Last Fighting Tommy, but at the time of publication, he was 108 years old, and the only surviving veteran of the First World War.
2. The camaraderie which he describes throughout is touching, particularly in this, the centenary year of the beginning of the conflict.
3. I found some elements of it a little repetitive, but overall, a fascinating portrait of a very humble man has been presented with the utmost care and consideration.

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Looking for Enid: The Mysterious and Inventive Life of Enid Blyton by Duncan McLaren **

‘Looking for Enid’

1. I love Blyton’s fiction, but I did not receive a favourable impression of the woman herself when I watched the BBC drama ‘Enid’ a few years ago.  I hoped that reading what I thought was a biography of her life would be enlightening, and would show me what Blyton was really like behind her kindly author facade.  This book, however, is not a straightforward author biography; instead, it charts McLaren’s journey in travelling to the houses in which Blyton lived and the places in which she holidayed.
2. I like the way in which McLaren states that Blyton’s work should still be read in adulthood, alongside such other authors as Proust and Waugh.
3. Much of the novel is told through dialogue exchanges between McLaren and his friend Kate, and he also (rather annoyingly) imagines that he is writing Blyton-esque books at intervals.  The use of both techniques made the whole feel a little woven and patchy.  I shall be picking up Barbara Stoney’s biography of Blyton at some point in the future, and hope that I enjoy it far more than I did the sadly disappointing Looking for Enid.

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