Sunday 10 October 2021

Catching up with non-fiction

I'm so behind with reviews it's ridiculous. Four to catch up on, but this time I'll just post briefly about two very enjoyable non-fiction books.

Starting with 40 Memorable Life Experiences edited by Robert Fear.

This is pretty much as described in the title. A clutch of authors share experiences that were not necessarily life changing but which have stayed firmly in their memories for one reason or another. We all have them I'm sure. The collection is hugely eclectic and covers experiences such as the climbing of Mount Kilimanjaro and getting heatstroke at -20C, looking for Leonard Cohen's island home on Hydra, a South Downs childhood, a Scottish family holidaying in Torquay, a first job in Bermuda on a fishing boat, attending your son's wedding by Skype, experiencing an earthquake in Alaska and so on. Several authors have multiple entries, Ronald Mackay speaks about running a farm in Canada, his experience of taking on a young man with special needs is incredibly touching, and Tina Mattern talks of a traumatic childhood when her father remarries. The selection is very wide reaching and I would've thought there was something for everyone here. Every offering is well written and very much from the heart I felt. And it's the sort of book you could easily dip in and out of as the mood takes you. I loved it and will be reading more of Robert Fear's collections.

Next, The Salt Path by Raynor Winn.

The first couple of chapters of this book really upset me. Raynor Winn and her husband, known as 'Moth', lost their farm and livelihood basically because a friend betrayed their trust and then because of a technical error they weren't aware of when the case came to court. The very next day Moth was diagnosed with something called Corticobasal Degeneration (CBD) which is, eventually, terminal. So... they're homeless and Moth is very ill and they have nowhere to go and nothing to do, and it occurs to Raynor that they should walk the South West coastal path, even though friends and family think they're mad. The book charts that long distance (630 miles) trek, their trials and tribulations, which are many, and Raynor's thoughts and concerns as they travel. I think I expected something lighter in tone and it genuinely is 'not'. It's heart-breaking in places. Most people who do these things have a home to go back to, money behind them, Raynor and Moth had neither of those things. And I really did expect more kindness from people along the way but the minute they said they were homeless most people backed away. On the other hand it's a book about what can be achieved against enormous odds, what humans can endure and move on from. And it's a book about love. It's beautiful quite frankly. On a more personal note, I live in the south west and know most of the areas they walked through so that did add to the interest for me. An amazing book and there's a sequel now, The Wild Silence, which I will get to eventually.

So that's my non-fiction reading for the last few weeks. In my next post I'll review two spooky, gothicky type autumnal reads, Sherlock Holmes and the Shadwell Shadow by James Lovegrove and Opium and Absinthe by Lydia Kang.


DesLily said...

I hope some day I get back to normal.. Love you Sis !! Your reading is inspiring!

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

Cath, you always introduce me to new exciting offerings. Both books sound excellent. I never liked short stories all that much until I retired. I'm a sucker for a sad story and the second book certainly seems to fit that bill.

I've been reading a lot of NF this month as well and just starting a new book called: David Copperfield, History of Magic - It's quite good.

Lark said...

You find the most interesting nonfiction books to read! That second one, The Salt Path, does sound super sad.

Sam said...

I'm about 75% through The Salt Path right now (audiobook version), and I have to agree with you about how heartbreaking those opening chapters are. I can't imagine even having the emotional strength left to put one foot in front of the other after being hit with so much devastating news all at once the way this couple was. And like you, the attitude that people they came across with while walking displayed after finding out that the couple was homeless bothered me. I expected better. I don't know how these guys walked into the unknown the way they did, knowing that when they got to the end of the walk they had no place to go.

Cath said...

Pat: Thanks! You take care.

Diane: Like you I was never much into short stories and then something changed a couple of years ago. Not sure what but now I seem to read quite a lot.

That book you're currently reading sounds interesting. Look forward to hearing about it.

Lark: Yes, it was really sad, but ultimately it was uplifting and proof you can survive almost anything.

Cath said...

Sam: Goodness, me too with not having any emotional strength left after what this couple went through. Traumatising. I was telling my husband what had happened to them and I can't repeat what he said he would've done to the 'friend' that did that to them. I'm not sure I would have been able to get over it like Raynor and Moth did. Yes, I expected better of the British public too, although the couple they got in with when they went back to finish the walk were different. And then there was another woman... I won't say more as you're not there yet. I plan to get hold of the second book soon as I really want to know what happened after.

Jeane said...

I was outraged and angry at what happened in the beginning of the Salt Path, too. I just couldn't believe things would end up that way for them. Also appalled at how many people thought they were doing a brave and admirable thing if they let it be assumed they'd sold their house to take the hike, but acted uneasy or judgmental if found out they'd lost it and were homeless. I read the second one- it wasn't as riveting, but still quite good, and thoughtful.

Cath said...

Jeane: Yes, I too was outraged at what happened to the couple. I thought I lived in a fair country, judicially speaking, but clearly I don't. I knew that wasn't always the case of course, but not that it could be 'that' cruel. Incensed.

TracyK said...

Well, I missed this post. When I saw your comments at Sam's review of The Salt Path, I didn't remember reading your review... so I checked.

The Salt Path sounds very good, but not necessarily something I want to read. Maybe someday.

Cath said...

Tracy: This really isn't a book for everyone. To be honest the only reason I was reading it is because I live in the south west where the walk takes place. If it had been elsewhere I'm not sure I would have read it.