Tag Archives: non-fiction

#BookReview ‘Wildwood’ by Roger Deakin #trees #nature

Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees is the first nature book by Roger Deakin I’ve read, now I want to read more. I’ve always loved trees, in nature, in art, the timber, wooden objects. As we know, it is beneficial to lose ourselves outside in nature, breathing in the fresh air, absorbing the quiet, acknowledging the trees and flowers, and so I found the experience of reading this book. It will make you want to camp outside in the woods. Roger Deakin

The first half of this book is a journey through the woods of Suffolk around Deakin’s home, talking to woodlanders and slipping in literature, poetry, woodworking and science. The second half is travel writing… about trees. Deakin travels to Kazakhstan in search of wild apple groves, the founding trees on which all our domesticated apples are based. In complete contrast are the chapters about Australia. Deakin lives and travels with local people in both places, enthusiasts and specialists in their subject, and this comes through in his writing. Both parts of this book are fascinating, just different. In the UK he talks to artists, woodcarvers, naturalists and thatchers in East Anglia, the New Forest, Wye and the Forest of Dean. His memories of schoolboy camping trips to the New Forest analysing and chronicling a small part of woodland show how young minds can find a fascination that lasts a lifetime.

At times quite dense with detail, I read this in short bursts rather than in one long reading session. Deakin inhabits his book with real people, he describes what they look like and how they speak, their cabins [often rough shacks in woodland], their tools, the timber they grow, manage and work with. Many are scientists others are artists. It is a homogeneous read in that everyone featured loves trees.

A delightful read. I was particularly pleased to read about artist David Nash, whose work I saw at Yorkshire Sculpture Park and instantly fell in love with.

If you like this, try:-
Landmarks’ by Robert Macfarlane 
Notes from Walnut Tree Farm’ by Roger Deakin 
Holloway’ by Dan Richards, Robert Macfarlane & Stanley Donwood 

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
#BookReview WILDWOOD by Roger Deakin #trees #nature https://wp.me/p5gEM4-40D via @SandraDanby

#BookReview ‘Underland’ by @RobGMacfarlane #nature #science #travel

Robert Macfarlane is a nature writer who gives you so much more – science, geology, landscape, history, folklore, myth, environment, oral history. Tempted by the amazing cover – a detail of ‘Nether’ by Stanley Donwood – I bought Underland and was hooked from the first sentence. ‘The way into the underland is through the riven trunk of an old ash tree’. Robert Macfarlane

Macfarlane goes underground – into the catacombs of Paris, remote Arctic sea caves, down moulins in Greenland glaciers, follows underground rivers through the Karst in Slovenia, ending in Finland where a tomb is being constructed to house nuclear waste – discovering stories about our ancestors and the world they lived in. A wide-ranging book, informative as well as interesting, Macfarlane writes with a feeling for language that locks into your emotions. As the chapters progress – each setting is underground, extreme and challenging – Macfarlane consults experts and explores inaccessible places. Juxtaposed with the examination of nature and science, he writes a travel story involving caving, mountaineering, exploration and survival skills. He writes of places the reader is unlikely ever to visit. Such as the calving face of the Knud Rasmussen glacier in Greenland, ‘Birds gather on the silt blooms, feeding on their richness. They are the only scale-givers at this distance, and they are as small as flies.’

Definitely one for re-reading. Some chapters I expected to enjoy, others I was less sure about – but I enjoyed them all, some new territory for me. Such as ‘The Understorey’ about the ‘wood wide web’ of tree-fungus mutualism underground. Macfarlane weaves a story of multiple stories, asking the question – what sort of ancestors will we be?

Fascinating. A non-fiction book to be dwelled upon, rather than rushed.

If you like this, try:-
Landmarks’ by Robert Macfarlane 
English Pastoral’ by James Rebanks 
The Wild Silence’ by Raynor Winn 

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
#BookReview UNDERLAND by @RobGMacfarlane #nature #science #travel https://wp.me/p5gEM4-4St via @SandraDanby

#BookReview ‘Seeking John Campbell’ by @JohnDaffurn

John Daffurn This book by John Daffurn is not fiction or a memoir. It is the true story of one man’s hunt for the family of a woman he doesn’t know, which encompasses genealogical research, foot slogging, dead ends and a lot of history.

This story starts with the death of this unknown woman, Isabel Grieg, in 1995. She dies intestate. The author found her name on the Bona Vacantia list of estates without heirs. His initial research, prompted by genealogical curiosity, turned into an obsession. This book is the story of that obsession, his fascination with the Campbells and a historical account which ranges from the founding of Argentina, the establishment of a Scots colony in Argentina, through the Great War and World War Two to the present day.

At times it is a very fact hungry book and I found myself re-reading some passages. This was not the book I expected, instead of an ‘Heir Hunter’ style detective story, albeit true, it is instead a well-written historical account of three men – each coincidentally called John Campbell – who may be the unknown father of Isabel Greig. In discovering the stories of these three men, the author tells the history of the twentieth century through the prism of three families.

The three potential fathers are John Argentine Campbell, John Burnet Campbell, and John Otto Campbell. Confused? I admit to getting a trifle bamboozled between the three at times but this did not distract me from what is a fascinating account of the Scottish/Argentina connection.

The story doesn’t end once Isabel’s father is identified. The search then switches to real time, as the author attempts to find the rightful heirs to Isabel’s legacy. It is at this point that the author switches from genealogist to heir hunter.

If you like this, try:-
‘In the Blood’ by Steve Robinson
‘The Blood Detective’ by Dan Waddell
‘Secrets, Spies and Spotted Dogs’ by Jane Eales

‘Seeking John Campbell’ by John Daffurn [UK: Eptex] Buy now

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
SEEKING JOHN CAMPBELL by @JohnDaffurn #bookreview via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-1yB