My non-fiction reading has started well this year with two really good books.
First up, Into the Planet: My Life as a Cave Diver by Jill Heinerth.
Canadian, Jill Heinerth's fascination with water began at a really young age when she nearly drowned... twice. It was obvious she was a born explorer and so it turned out to be as she became a canoeist and hiker in her teenage years. A stable, prosperous life in Toronto called though and she became a successful Graphic Designer until, at the age of 27, she reached a cross-roads. A middle of the night violent break-in caused her to re-evaluate her life and she decided to learn how to survive no matter what life threw at her. A diving course showed her the way, she felt as though she had discovered what she had been born to do. I didn't realise when I bought this non-fiction book that I was buying a tale that was more exciting than fiction. That's rare but then it is cave-diving that we're talking about here, one of the most dangerous sports on the planet, I suppose mountaineering would compare but suspect the death rate is higher from cave-diving. Some of Jill's exploits are hair-raising as she goes deeper and further than any woman in history. She has to fight intolerance because of her sex and when the internet became a thing... jealousy and spite on online forums from other divers. Before I read this I was under the impression that The Bends was just a bit of under-water cramp. Er... no. I now know better. I had no idea how many cave divers lost their lives every year and the death toll of her friends as she becomes more experienced does get to the author. I found the whole thing utterly fascinating, not just the danger but the technical stuff about how to survive in incredibly deep caves using rebreathers. I could never do this kind of thing 'ever', but I do love reading about other people doing it and this book was an absolute cracker.
Finally, Watery Ways by Valerie Poore.
Twitter can be a pretty nasty place sometimes but other times it comes up trumps. I saw author, Valerie Poore, on there talking about her books, went to investigate and ended up grabbing Watery Ways for my Kindle. At the start of this book she has moved from South Africa with her then husband to The Netherlands. They decided to live on a barge in one of the historic harbour areas of Rotterdam but when their marriage broke up Valerie found herself looking for a new home. She ended up renting and doing up another historic old barge and fending for herself when she had very little experience of barge living. One thing she therefore benefitted from was the friendliness and camaraderie of the other inhabitants of the water boats in the harbour. She soon made friends and even found romance, which helps when the owner of the barge you live on decides to sell...
I absolutely loved this delightful book. Valerie's writing style is so accessible and friendly that you feel as though you're sitting with her enjoying a cup of tea and a cake while she's telling you about her life on a barge in Rotterdam. I'm in awe of her bravery because it's not something I could do on my own though it has to be said that she didn't have a lot of choice in the matter. All power to her elbow for just getting on with it! And what a lovely cast of characters she gets to know, quite eccentric some of them, but joyous to read about. I also loved reading about her excursions with Koos along various canals and waterways, sometimes a bit scary too. I shall be reading more of these 'watery' books by Valerie Poore, can't wait to read about trips to Belgium and France and then I might move on to previous books about South Africa!
Non-fiction seems to be working really well for me this month. I've just started this:
I read Simon Winchester's Atlantic last year and enjoyed it so much that I checked to see what else he'd written - quite a list - and ended up buying this. So pleased I did as it's every bit as good as Atlantic and I'm absolutely loving it.
I hope everyone's enjoying their January 2021 reading. Any gems to recommend? (Because of course I need more books......)