Thursday, 8 January 2015

Great reads of 2014.

H is for Hawk
by Helen MacDonald.

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This beautiful multi-layered book just makes it into the list as I was gifted it by Mr S's Mum and could not stop dipping into it in between all the Christmas festivities. This method of reading should not have been successful, how was it possible to disappear into MacDonald's sometimes bleak grief filled world while surrounded by all the hustle and bustle of a family Christmas and the urban glitter and sparkle of  holiday London? However, my complete immersion into this book shows the precise power of this authors writing, the deft recreation of her obsessive training of Mabel the Goshawk, the compassionate biography of T.H White, and her seductive portrait of the English countryside were just perfect.

I don't usually make New Year resolutions but this book was probably partly instrumental in strengthening my resolve to get back into hill walking and trekking again this year, well and partly due to the fact that I mistakenly put on a pare of Mr S's jean and they did fit! Ohhh feck. I do spend quite a lot of time out in the countryside already but really want to experience the exhilaration to be found in our increasingly rare wild margins, the mountains and the coast.

Fractious gust of wind rattle the hedgerows, blowing voluminous shoals of leaves over us as we walk up the tract. There's sticky mud and pheasant prints in it. Flocks of fieldfares chak chak and dodge in the hawthorns by the cow field, breaking low when we get too near, bouncing over the hedge and away in thrushy strobes of black and white. It's nice to see them. Proper winter is here. And Mabel is fizzing with happiness...

This book is in places a dark read but it is so much more than the usual misery memoir, it is a deep meditation on grief and the stark raw loneliness of grieving. It is a lament for loss and of the debilitating power of separation from those we have loved but it is also a celebration of life, the beauty inherent in our natural world and the elemental importance of human interaction with the wild and indeed each other. It is one of those books that I could turn back to reread immediately after finishing. Caught by the River which is a fascinating online resource for all matters outdoorsy has an interview with Helen MacDonald here.

Another such book which demanded such an urgent reread was:

The Closet of Savage Mementoes
by Nuala Ni Chonchuir

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I have posted about this beauty in this post back in the summer when myself and some fellow bookish ladies had the pleasure of meeting Nuala Ni Chonchuir and had the chance to discuss with her, the impact that this book had for us and of-course the fascinating process of writing from conception to publication. I ordered this novel on kindle and immediately regretted it as I so needed a touchy feely print copy in order to return again and again to favoured passages of writing. I have to admit that I considered buying this book as a gift for someone and then quickly hesitated, reluctant as they might not  'get it'. Do you get that feeling of extreme annoyance when someone criticizes your beloved books? Anyway, this is a great book, funny, poignant and compelling - go and buy it. Nuala Ni Chonchuir's forthcoming book Miss Emily has been included in stellar company on the Huffington Post's Most Anticipated Books of 2015 list (as Nuala O'Connor)
My final amazing book of 2014 is:
To Kill a Mocking Bird
by Harper Lee.

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Ok, this has to be filed under the 'My Jaw is dropping, why have I not read this before!' subtitle. I have found it very hard to desist from the inclusion of multiple exclamation marks and OMG's. You don't need me to review this masterpiece for you so if like me, you have neglected to add this book to the culture section of your brain then do not tarry. Of course, the film is a sublime bonus to add to the experience.

I'm so excited for 2015, there are 12 whole months of reading time to be filled. Have you any recommendations for me? What has been your favourite read of last year? xxxx


  1. Aw, thanks, Shauna. I love 'Mockingbird' too, one of my faves.

    1. You are most welcome, Nuala, it was a very easy choice. x