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Review: The Devil’s Highway by Greg Norminton

4 out of 5 stars

Andagin is hunting across a heathland in the south of Roman Britain two thousand years ago, but he is about to discover something that threatens him and his communities safety and means that he will have to betray a family member.

Two millennia later, two troubled men have a differing opinion over the same landscape that Andagin and the Roman occupiers once walked. Aitch, haunted by the effects of war wants to use it as he sees fit and Robbie’s father struggling to cope with the fallout from a divorce is passionate about protecting it.

In a future world, a broken world where heathland has become desert. A gang of feral children flee slavery and conflict in a time of war, hiding from those pursuing them, heading to a part of the country where rain is believed to still fall from the sky.

These three stories all have a common trace, The Devil’s Highway. A Roman road constructed across Bagshot Heath, to Sunningdale and to Silchester and beyond. The historical, contemporary and dystopian stories are layered and intrinsically linked by this terrain and the road that traverses it. It is a story that shows how humans over the course of 3000 years irreparably alter a landscape and a planet. We go from a tribe who are in tune with the natural world who have been taken over by invaders who couldn’t care less, to a modern world where almost no one cares, to a bleak place where the planet has stopped caring back. I really liked the Roman and modern-day tales, though I must admit I struggled with the language with the mob of children set in the future though. The way that the stories were draped over the same landscape was really well done too, elements in one would be visible all the way through. I grew up in the vicinity of this area, so places in the book were very real to me. This book made me think a lot a couple of days after reading it and while I thought that mixing the stories up a chapter at a time was good, but I think for me it would have worked better having them as three separate novellas within the same book.

Review: Cornerstones Edited by Mark Smalley

5 out of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

Standing looking over the rolling fields of part of the UK and it won’t be immediately obvious what bedrock the soils are sitting on. But the clues are there if you know where to look. Soil colour is one clue, but if you ignore the brick that most modern homes are built with now and find the older houses in your local area and you will find the stone that has been hauled out of the ground to build them. These buildings fit really well in the landscape, for example, the warm coloured  Cotswold houses, the cool greys of Portland limestone and the darker grey granites of Aberdeen show the bedrock off in all its glory.

This collection of essays from a wide variety of writers, poets and artists has been adapted from the BBC Radio Three series, Cornerstones. In here you will find Sue Clifford, one of Common Grounds founders, talking about limestone, Fiona Hamilton contemplating the brick, Paul Evans standing in a wood holding a horsetail that made up the coal beneath his feet 300 million years ago. Tim Dee writes about his own personal rock, a rock that nearly killed him and Linda Cracknell is entranced by the sparkle of quartz as people have been for millennia. Peter Randall-Page talks art and Dartmoor granite and Neil Ansell begins in Balcombe in West Sussex where they are starting to frack, before heading to Kimmeridge to see the same oil shales and see the unexpected sight of a metronomic nodding donkey.

The pebble opens the cosmos. And yet, lost in the immensity of understanding, should I not fear this thing

This is just a taste of these captivating essays in here from a great selection of authors and this is another cracker of a compilation from Little Toller, following on from Arboreal a couple of years ago. Even though it is all about rock, the contrasting subjects tackled from a wide variety of views ensure that there is always something to interest you in every essay. Before you venture out in your local area next time, find out what the bedrock is (check here) have a look around at the soils and see how your landscape is shaped. Highly recommended.

The Radio Three essays that inspired this book are still available to listen to here.

Blog Tour: Salvation by Peter F. Hamilton

Welcome to my blog for the next stop on the Salvation by Peter F. Hamilton blog tour

Blurb

Know your enemy – or be defeated

AD 2204
An alien shipwreck is discovered on a planet at the very limits of human expansion – so Security Director Feriton Kayne selects a team to investigate. The ship’s sinister cargo not only raises bewildering questions, but could also foreshadow humanity’s extinction. It will be up to the team to bring back answers, and the consequences of this voyage will change everything.

Back on Earth, we can now make deserts bloom and extend lifespans indefinitely, so humanity seems invulnerable. We therefore welcomed the Olyix to Earth when they contacted us. They needed fuel for their pilgrimage across the galaxy – and in exchange they helped us advance our technology. But were the Olyix a blessing or a curse?

THE FAR FUTURE
Many light years from Earth, Dellian and his clan of genetically engineered soldiers are raised with one goal. They must confront and destroy their ancient adversary. The enemy caused mankind to flee across the galaxy and they hunt us still. If they aren’t stopped, we will be wiped out – and we’re running out of time.

 

About the Author

Peter F. Hamilton was born in Rutland in 1960. He began writing in 1987, and sold his first short story to Fear magazine in 1988. He has written many bestselling novels, including the Greg Mandel series, the Night’s Dawn trilogy, the Commonwealth Saga, the Void trilogy, short-story collections and several standalone novels including Fallen Dragon and Great North Road.

 

 

My Review

4.5 out of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

Callum Hepburn has just married Savi Chaudhri after a whirlwind relationship. They both work for Connexion, he as a team leader for the emergency detoxification squad and she is in the security division. After their all too brief honeymoon they both head back to work, Callum, to dig a government from the mire with an urgent material extraction and Savi heads back undercover. A week later and he hasn’t heard a thing from her, so pings her and does not get a response. Worrying about her he heads off to see her boss, Yuri Alster to see if he knows anything. The thing is, no one does; she has vanished off the face of the planet. It looks like it might be down to him to find her and in his search, he will discover more than he really wants to know about the company he works for.

Connexion Corp, the organisation that they both work for, can really be considered a government in their own right. Their quantum entangled portals is a technology that allows people to live in one part of the world and work in another and literally be there in no time at all. This technology along with most other things on Earth are powered by solarwells, that have been dropped into the sun and have allowed humanity to have unlimited power.

In 2204 and an alien ship has been discovered 90 light years from Earth. That there are aliens is not the surprise, another race, the Olyix have been known to humanity for a while now. What is shocking is the cargo that they are carrying; human beings held in suspended animation. No one knows how they got there. No one knows who took them there. Feriton Kayne, Connexion’s deputy director of security is asked to pick a team to investigate. Two of the people that he picks for this team are Yuri Alster and Callum Hepburn, who have a healthy disregard for each other after their earlier clash over Savi. What they are walking into will change everything.

Entwined in this narrative is the story of Dellian and his friends set thousands of years in the future. They have been born as soldiers and are being trained to combat an enemy who is prepared to stop at absolutely nothing to wipe humanity from the universe…

To say this is fast-paced would be a little bit of an understatement, certain scenes rocket by, in particular, the ones with the Connexion security team. The technology that Hamilton uses in the books, all sounds plausible, the web that they all use is pervasive and all-seeing, however, most people feel free and liberated in the modern society. I loved the portals and the way that they worked with people passing all over the world in the blink of an eye. The scenes with Dellian and his team, set way in the future felt like they were inspired by Enders Game. There are a plethora of characters in here, and it occasionally I had to think who was who, thankfully there is a guide and a timeline included. The only bit that I didn’t like was the way it jumped backwards and forwards between the different times and there were several ambiguities that weren’t cleared up by the ending. That is fine as there are more books to follow and threads opened here leads onto other things, but this was a brilliant start to a new series. Now have a long while to wait for the next!

This book has been published by Pan Macmillian and is available from your local independent bookshop 

Do go and have a look at the other sites hosting the blog tour:

Review: Looking for the Goshawk by Conor Mark Jameson

4 out of 5 stars

Whether it is a kestrel hovering over a verge or a Red Kite hanging in the thermals, a glimpse of a raptor is always a special moment. My closest encounter with a wild raptor was walking through my hometown of Wimborne one Sunday afternoon and seeing a Sparrow Hawk feasting on an unlucky pigeon a few metres in front of me. Managed to get very close just before it flew off. Thankfully raptors have a lot more protection nowadays but they are still subject to persecution in certain parts of the country.

However, there are some of these magnificent creatures that are very elusive; the goshawk is one of those and Conor Mark Jameson has made it his mission to try and find these beautiful birds wherever he can. His travels will take him from a stuffed one in a museum to the city of Berlin where Goshawks are thriving and back and forwards across the country in search of these birds and eventually to America where he seeks out the birds there and discusses the Native American beliefs about these and other raptors. Friends and other bird watchers keep him up to date with local sightings, though most seem to be sparrow hawks when the evidence is evaluated.

His obsession has been inspired by reading the classic book by TH White, The Goshawk. He wants to know more about the man who wrote the book and with a little bit of research, he finds the cottage where he used to live and some relatives who he eventually gets to meet. He considers the politics of birdwatching and wonders about how falconry and the persecution of them have affected their chances. The thing to remember though is even if

I really enjoyed this book, and particularly liked the way he has written it as a diary. His enthusiasm is infectious as he seeks these birds out. They take a lot of finding too, they are not naturally gregarious, preferring to live in copses and woodlands and rarely make themselves visible, so they may be there and you are not going to see them. Now I really want to read TH White’s book on the Goshawk.

Blog Tour: Ladders to Heaven

Welcome to my blog for the next stop on the Ladders to Heaven: The Secret History of Fig Trees by Mike Shanahan blog tour

Fig trees have affected humanity in profound but little-known ways: they are wish fulfillers, rainforest royalty, more precious than gold. In Ladders to Heaven tells their incredible story, beautifully peppered with original hand-drawn illustrations

They fed our pre-human ancestors, influenced diverse cultures and played a key role in the birth of civilisation. More recently, they helped restore life after Krakatoa’s catastrophic eruption and proved instrumental in Kenya’s struggle for independence.

Figs now sustain more species of bird and mammal than any other fruit – in a time of falling trees and rising temperatures, they offer hope. Theirs is a story about humanity’s relationship with nature, as relevant to our past as it is to our future.

 

 

About the Author

Mike Shanahan is a freelance writer and illustrator with a doctorate in rainforest ecology. He has lived in a national park in Borneo, bred endangered penguins, investigated illegal bear farms and produced award-winning journalism. His writing includes work published by The Economist, Nature, New Scientist, BBC Earth, Scientific American and Newsweek.

 

 

My Review

It is thought that the fig was one of the earliest fruits that were eaten by mankind, but they had probably borrowed the idea from watching monkeys and primates race to the trees to get the best fruits each day. This reliance on the sweet fruits seeped into the culture and religion of humans 5000 years ago, hence why the three Abrahamic faiths consider them important fruits, and the Buddha gained enlightenment whilst meditating in the cage of a Strangler Fig.

Ficus religiosais one of 750 different varieties of this plant. They vary from the shiny leafed and normally unloved houseplant to the huge figs whose roots grow down to the ground after they have rooted in the high branches of other trees. Some encase them and kill off their host, others survive in a mutual balance but they are an essential forest plant, supporting up to 1200 other species that reply of then fruits for food.

One thing that they all have in common though is the way that they flower and fruit. The flowers are not visible, contained within the peduncle and have to be pollinated by a tiny wasp around 2mm in length. Each fig has its own specific wasp that crawls in and out of the fruit and if they are not around they there is no pollination. Except the Ancient Egyptians discovered a way of tricking the tree into thinking it had been pollinated.

Until now I had never really given two figs about the fig. Their history, their importance as a food, and the significance that they have had in all sorts of historical events and the way that we intertwine ourselves with figs and the tiny wasps that pollinate them is the untold story of our age. I really enjoyed this fascinating book by Shanahan as it is written from his direct experiences as a biologist seeking out these important trees. If there was tiny flaw though, I felt it was too short, it felt like there were chunks missing from the European history and culture and maybe a little more on the benefits of them as a food stuff. It was a shame because what Shanahan has written in here was really good. One last tip, if you are not sure about them, having suffered fig rolls perhaps, bake them for around 20 minutes and serve with a little mascarpone.

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

Thank you to Anne Cater of Random Things Through my Letterbox for organising this.

This book has been published by Unbound and is available from your local independent bookshop 

Don’t forget to visit the other bloggers on the blog tour:

 

 

Monthly Muse: August

September. Already?!?! Nights are drawing in and the kids go back to school. 🙂 It is the final year for my eldest as she takes her A Levels next summer! Anyway, you are here for the books. I only managed to read 17 books last month, even though we had a great week’s holiday in Jersey. There were four, yes four, five-star books too. But first, a book prize.

 

I was fortunate to get an invite to the announcement one of my all-time favourite book prize, the Wainwright Prize. For those of you that don’t know anything about it, it is a book prize that celebrates Uk based books that are focused on the outdoors, travel and natural history of these isles. The book that I wanted to win, The Last Wilderness, didn’t, however, the winner, The Seabirds Cry is another excellent book by a high-quality author.

Really enjoyed going to the event and meeting some of the people that I have only known virtually until now. Also got a big pile of books signed too:

But what I read then. First up was a wonderful book of photographs that were taken by Joan Leigh Fermor and collected into this book with a commentary of her, Patrick and the places and people that they mixed with. This was five stars and if you have read any of his travel books then you need this book in your collection.

I had been fortunate enough to receive all five of the new Jonathan Raban books that the lovely people at Eland are republishing in their distinct covers. First up was Arabia: Through the Looking Glass the first book he wrote. He is a perceptive traveller, keen to venture off the beaten track and explore the places that others seldom venture. I had been intending to read one a month since June and have failed a little, but will be reading the next he published this month.

 

I and some others run an online book group on Good Reads called Book Vipers. A book of the month a little while back was The Robber Bride, by Margaret Atwood. This is about three women who are glad to see the back of someone after she dies who has wrecked their marriages and called much misery. Until they see her again and it opens all the old wounds up again. I felt it took a while to get going and the last third of the book did get really good.

 

I read The Gilded Cage on the ferry over to Jersey. It is set in a modern world where feudal traits still exist, and the elite that governs do so with the help of magic. A family is allocated to another landed family to serve their ten years as slaves, except on is separated and sent to the industrial heartland in the north of the country where the work is much tougher and he is unlikely to survive. But things are changing in the society and what has been for hundreds of years may not remain. Enjoyable and fast-paced.

Granta was kind enough to send me a copy of The Written World a long while ago. This book by Martin Puchner looks at the way that cultures have developed the skills of writing, printing and papermaking and then considers how those skills have affected that society as it bought better literacy and education to the populations. Worth reading, but it is a brief snapshot of literary matters and does not have the time to go into the depth that others may want.

 

 

Brexit. The very thought of it makes me shudder, especially give those trying to implement it. My Europe – an anthology is a collection of essays and poems that contemplate our current and future position in the economic and political landscape of the EU. Well worth reading as the authors vary from MPs to poets, immigrants to current residents. It is an interesting selection of points of view.

I had been meaning to read Alastair Reynold’s Poseidon’s Wake for ages, and finally got to it whilst on holiday. It is the final book in the trilogy that began with Blue Remembered Earth and has links back to the same family and intelligent elephants that have been common to all three books. On top of this family saga, is a space opera and alien life and is written as only Reynolds can do. Whilst I enjoyed it, I didn’t think that it was as good as the previous two books in the series.

 

 

 

I was fortunate enough to get a signed proof copy of the debut novel by Kate Mascarenhas, The Psychology of Time Travel. This concern four women who have managed to invent the time machine back in the 1960’s have controlled access to it ever since through the Conclave. All was fine until the body of an unknown woman with bullet wounds is discovered in a cupboard and trying to uncover who she is and who killed her will occupy the latest generation of time travellers at the Conclave. Time travel books are notoriously difficult to get right, but Mascarenhas has deftly managed it with this.

 

Looking For The Goshawk was the next book that I read, one I had had from the library for a while. (review to come soon). It details Conor Mark Jameson’s passion or borderline obsession with that elusive bird that is the Goshawk. He travels over to Berlin to see them there and travels around his local area and wider in the UK to seek them out. It is a really well written natural history book and can highly recommend.

I have been meaning to read The Gallows Pole for absolutely ages and had even managed to get a copy out of the library. Someone else had reserved it, so decided to have a bit of a Benjamin Myers week starting with this. What a book too, it is the fictional account of the real-life story of the Cragg Vale coiners, a group of men who would clip the coins and melt the clippings down into newly minted coins. This didn’t go down well with the crown and men from London are dispatched to deal with the situation. He has deeply rooted the book in the landscape and he has captured the smells, sights, mud and hardship of just trying to make a living at that time. The prose is a delight to read, poetic, lyrical and visceral, it grips you and drags you into this tale. A brilliant book.

Dee Dee Chainey who has scoured the legends, crept past the giants and kelpies and learnt about the customs and included them in this charming little book. It is a good overview of the weft and weave of folklore that permeates our lives even today. It does lack a little depth, but it is a concise summation of all things folklore. That said, there is an extensive bibliography and references and more importantly a comprehensive list of places to find folklore for those that want to uncover much more about this fascinating subject. I loved the bold woodcut illustrations by Joe McLaren too, they are a certain gravitas to the book.

The next Benjamin Myers book I read was Beastings. This tells the story of a mute girl who one night takes a baby who she is caring for and takes to the hills. She is pursued by the local priest and poacher. It deals with some very dark disturbing themes, as one pair chase the other across the hills and the ending does not pull any punches at all. If you liked the Wasp Factory, this is another book that is as shocking as that. Brilliant.

 

 

With the end of the Second World War now over 70 years ago, we are starting to hear of the stories of the individuals affected by this global conflict. Dadland is probably the best known of this genre and another published last month, East of West, West of East joins it. This book tells of the story of Hamish Brown’s family and their time in Japan as war erupted in the Far East and the journey that they made from Japan to Singapore via China and the Philippines when they had to flee. There is also an account of his fathers escape from Singapore to safety. It is a fairly short book and is very much of the moment as it is taken from the letters that his mother sent to his grandmother at the time.

I like fantasy books but don’t read them very often (mostly because of a big pile of non-fiction that I have to read), but The Last Namsara looked really good. It is about Asha, daughter of the king of Firgaard, who has become a feared dragon slayer in the land that she takes on the role of the next Iskari. It is a YA book and has a romance element, something that I am not overly concerned by. However as a debut book, Kristen Ciccarelli, has come up with a well-conceived series with a solid backstory. Looking forward to the next.

My third Benjamin Myers book was his first non-fiction offering and is set where he lives. Carved from the land above Mytholmroyd in West Yorkshire, Scout Rock dominates the landscape. Some consider it an unremarkable place, but as Myers explores, the natural world and the landscape of that part of Yorkshire he covers subjects as diverse as political discourse to folklore, industrial music to slugs, asbestos to ravens. Most of all it, this book is about place; that small part of our small country that he has grown to love since moving out of London. All of his this month have been five-star reads.

 

From rocks to pebbles, now and The Pebbles on the Beach is a reprint of the 1954 classic by Clarence Ellis. It was a book that I never knew about in my childhood, which was a shame as I spent a lot of time alongside a shingle beach in Sussex and this would have been a brilliant book to have. Faber has re-issued this beautifully illustrated reprint with a fantastic fold-out cover shown the pebbles that you are likely to find on the beaches of England.

The final book of August was the charmingly titled F*** You Very Much by Danny Wallace. After a horrendous time in a restaurant that he called the HotDog Incident which descended into a slanging match between him and the person serving, he decided to take a look at how rude we are getting as a nation. He commissions a survey and talks to all sorts of people about our tolerance levels and what is making us less considerate and even confronts someone who trolled him on twitter once. It is a worrying trend and whilst Wallace does not have the answers, reading this should make you think twice before posting a rude reply back to someone.

So that was it really. Any there that you have read and liked, or are there any that you really like the look of? Tell me in the comments. I had a hernia operation on the last day of August and am now signed off recovering and reading for three weeks!

Review: The Dark Interval by Rainer Maria Rilke

3.5 out of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

Grief is something that almost everyone will experience to some degree or another in their lifetime after the loss of a parent, partner or another close relative. Each person has to deal with it in their own way; anger, sadness, tears, withdrawal and melancholy and it leaves a lasting effect on your psyche, something that you get past, but never over.

Until The Dark Interval dropped on my doormat last week I had never come across Rainer Maria Rilke, but according to the research that I have done since reading this he is a lyrical and intense poet who travelled through a number of European countries before settling in Switzerland. He was also an extensive writer of letters and the ones that comprise this short collection that he wrote to his friends and acquaintances to provide comfort and solace to them in their moments of need.

Death does not exceed our strength

They have been sifted from the vast collection of letters and translated for the first time into English by Ulrich Baer. In each letter, you hear his clear but sympathetic voice as he tries to bring the recipient back to a world away from the pain they are feeling and to use it to forge a new path back to life. There is genuine compassion in his words to all those that he writes to, and it is his words today that can still offer a much needed reassurance to those in their moments of need.

 

Review: F*** You Very Much by Danny Wallace

3.5 out of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

People seem to be getting much, much ruder at the moment. Not only in what they say, but the things that they do, but some of this rudeness is the way that people say it and the outraged responses back from people who had never considered themselves rude.

It feels like a race to the race to the bottom at the moment.

All started with what Wallace calls the Hot Dog Incident though. His five-year-old son was hungry, as most small boys are, and they had spotted somewhere for lunch. Being asked to pay up front was a bit off and it was expensive for what is a simple food item, but needs must, and they took their seats. Twenty-five minutes later and there was nothing forthcoming, so he headed back to the counter to be fobbed off with some sort of an excuse and a promise of ten minutes more. After one hour still nothing so he headed back again to be given curt and what he considered frankly rude excuses, but still no food or a time when it would be available. It reached the point where they were arguing and he was rude back to her, something that he never thought he’d ever do.

To try and understand why, Danny Wallace starts talking (nicely) to all sorts of people who are looking at why society keeps getting worse, travels to the states to talk to scientists and psychologists, persuades a friend to join a Radical Honesty group with him and even confronts a guy in a pub who trolled him online once. He contemplates the effects of the ASBO, learns about the naked rambler, discusses cultural differences where one man’s wave would be considered quite rude elsewhere. He even goes as far as commissioning his own survey to gain further insight into how rude people are.

There are not as many laugh out loud moments in this book as there are in others, but this is an important and actually really serious book about the way that society is changing. Some of the blame can be firmly attributed to social media, where a certain amount on anonymity means that people can let rip with all sorts of threats and feel that it won’t come back to haunt them, yet… This is not a book for the answers though, those need to be addressed by society on a wider scale, and this is well worth reading about this worrying trend.

Review: The Pebbles on the Beach by Clarence Ellis

4 out of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

As a child, I spent a lot of time at Normans Bay in Sussex. The beach there was a mix of pebbles, shingles and sand when the tide was out. I swam, sailed, made sandcastles and I could not even begin to count the number of pebbles that I have picked up off a beach and thrown into the sea or scoured the shoreline looking for the flattest so I could skim them. Mostly they were just a there, I remember it was painful to walk across the mostly brown pebbles in bare feet to get to the sea. Every now and again I would find a shell or an unusually coloured stone which would be used on the sandcastles for decoration.

Until I picked this up it never even crossed my mind that you could learn so much from a single stone. There is a chapter on how a pebble is formed and a basic lesson on geology. There is another in depth on the kinds of pebbles that you are likely to find on which beaches around England. Ellis explains the meaning of terms swash and backwash, longshore drift and how shingle beaches behave with the relentless waves. He moves onto semi-precious stones and the types that you are likely to find around the UK.

It is a book that I wish I had first had as a child, something that Robert Macfarlane was fortunate to find on his grandparent’s shelf when he was growing up as he explains in the new foreword to the book. The language is a little dated, but then it is a reprint of a classic book that is over 65 years old now, however, it is still a delight to read. Given that you are dealing with small items of geology, the details of what to look for are not going to be changing for a long time. The fold out cover is beautifully illustrated by the artist Eleanor Crow and it is worth buying just for that alone.

 

 

Review: Under the Rock by Benjamin Myers

5 out of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

For a lot of people landscape is something they travel through or past, barely acknowledging it in the maelstrom of modern life, unless it is something spectacular. Hathershelf Scout above the Yorkshire town of Mytholmroyd is one of those places that most would consider unremarkable. It lacks some of the photogenic qualities of the dales, has been a place where criminals and coin clippers hid in the 18th Century, has a drawn for those with suicidal thoughts was once a tip and hides a lethal secret. 

However, Benjamin Myers would disagree. Not only is it his home patch of landscape, but he can walk through tangled woods that lead up onto a crag that has its own stark beauty, its brooding gritstone seeping into his psyche as he uncovers the geological and personal histories of the place that run deep into the bedrock. Entwined with the landscape that he walks every day he can, he starts to discover that the remarkable exists in the mundane and ordinary, the imperceptible daily changes that slowly build to make the seasons feel like they have arrived in a rush.

His writing is split into the four elements that make up the view he can from his window, wood, water, earth and rock and he uses these to explore all manner of other subjects as he walks with his dog, Heathcliff. Nothing escapes his gaze or thought process, he considers the invasive species alongside the natural, acknowledges the life of the animals that cross his path as much as their deaths. History is as important to him as the modern political issues of the day. He swims regularly in the wild and shockingly cold waters in the local pools and plays a part in helping in the community with the floods in 2015 when Mytholmroyd partially disappeared beneath the brown waters of the River Calder after days of rain and watches as a landslide takes a sizable chunk of the hillside away. It doesn’t stop him exploring though as he snags his coat on the keep out sign as he climbs over the fence.

It is a difficult book to characterise as it encompasses so much within its pages. It is as much about the natural world and the landscape of that part of Yorkshire and Myers covers subjects as diverse as political discourse to folklore, industrial music to slugs, asbestos to ravens. Most of all it, this book is about place; that small part of our small country that he has grown to love since moving out of London. I have read two of his other books, Beastings and The Gallows Pole, just before I got to this one and I found his writing in those captivating. This is no different, his mastery of the language means that you feel you are alongside him as he looks out over the valley, or clambering up the same path behind him as the water runs down through the rock. I really liked the Field Notes at the end of each section, these are short and elemental poems as well as a small number of black and white photos that add so much to the rest of the book. If you have read Strange Labyrinth or 21st Century Yokel then this should be added to your reading list. Brilliant book and highly recommended.

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