Tuesday 23 February 2016


Findings by Kathleen Jamie is my book three for the 2016 European Reading Challenge  which is being hosted by Rose City Reader. The European country it represents is 'Scotland', which is the UK country I've chosen to cover, purely because on my one and only trip there I fell in love with the place.

It's quite a difficult task to review this one as it's a series of essays that the author has written and I'm not very good at reviewing essays. So, let's see... Kathleen Jamie lives somewhere in Fife, in Scotland. She lectures in creative writing at St. Andrew's University and is also a poet. In her spare time she has a huge interest in wildlife, particularly birds, and travels around Scotland, seeking out beautiful places and the wildlife that makes those places special. Thus, we see her going to see the salmon trying to get upstream on the Braan river in the Highlands and discovering rather a sad secret about them. She also travels extensively around the Hebrides, exploring islands and looking for oddities such as the skeleton of a gannet's head but finding instead a whale's scapula. She sees and is saddened by how inhabited these islands once were, and now are not, after the Highland clearances of course.

Close to where the author lives are the nests of peregrine falcons and ospsreys and on one memorable occasion she sees a crane flying overhead. Her observations of these beautiful birds make for delightful reading. Also enjoyable to read about was her trip to the Hebridean island of Coll to try and see the elusive corncrake. These birds were once commonplace on mainland Britain but were wiped out by new farming practises sixty or seventy years ago.

One section that didn't work for me was that of her visit to The Royal College of Surgeons to see the Surgeon's Hall and its exhibits. Some of them were rather strange, almost macabre, not that I was bothered by it, just not terribly interested. Another departure from wildlife was her look at the skyline of Edinburgh from atop one of its high buildings. Even though I've never been to that city I found that very interesting and it made me wish I had been to what is surely a very beautiful and historic city. One day, hopefully.

I tend to find that my enjoyment of books about wildlife depends almost entirely on the writing. They can be quite dull if handled wrongly but some authors seem to have the knack of making anything interesting and such is the case with Kathleen Jamie's Findings. The writing is just gorgeous and I was transported all over Scotland by the beautiful descriptions and almost 'wistful' writing. And yet it's not sentimental at all.  The author is totally realistic about the way things are in nature and what we have done to either help or hinder our native wildlife. A gorgeous book and there is now a sequel, Sightlines, which I have reserved from the library,



DesLily said...

I love books written "in" Scotland as well as England and Ireland but I don't think this one is up my alley...

you are going to far surpass me in books this year LOL.. am hung up with some crocheting.. what little I have read in the Jackie after Jack book (about 100 pgs) is very good!

Cath said...

Pat: I'm not sure if you would like this or not. The writing's gorgeous, as you would expect from a poet, but there's a kind of a wistfulness to it which might make you feel sad, and you don't need that at the moment.

Sometimes you just have to pass the time with whatever makes you happy at the time. I'm sure I'll have a jigsaw phase when our kitchen is done and the chaos is over. So my reading will suffer again. LOL

Kailana said...

I am not sure if this is a 'me' book, but great post! Hope you enjoy the next one!

BooksPlease said...

I'll keep a look out for this one, Kath. On a non-book note I'm in a jigsaw phase at the moment and find myself doing them instead of writing about the books I've read. And just like reading books as soon as I've finished one jigsaw I get another out - I'm a bit slower at the puzzles though than at reading.

Cath said...

Kelly: Thanks. Some books just make you feel better for having read them and this was one.

Margaret: It's a book to read slowly and savour.

Yes, I'm eyeing the pile of puzzles my daughter has passed on... she gets free ones from Budleigh Salterton library, passes them to me and I pass them back, that library being not at all bothered when they go back or even if the same ones go back... and am dying to get cracking, but the house is in so much chaos I just can't at the moment. Hopefully next week. *Fingers crossed*