Considering that reading is such an important part of my life, it’s perhaps strange that I rarely blog about books. Thanks to Sandra, writing from A Corner of Cornwall, I’m going to put that right this week. She in her turn responds to Sam, at Taking on a World of Words. Every week, she poses this question:
What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?
I can answer that.
I’m reading Benjamin Myers’ The Offing. I first met this writer Under the Rock, his poetically written book about his home patch in Mytholmroyd, West Yorkshire, and which simply defies categorisation – autobiography, geology, true crime, edgelands, poetry … it’s all here.
The Offing though, is fiction. It tells the story of Robert, the sixteen year old son of a Durham coal miner, on the cusp of adulthood, as he foot-slogs slowly southwards just after the Second World War. His simple hand-to-mouth existence changes when he meets Dulcie, who’s older, eccentric, from a very different world, and who opens her home to him. I won’t tell you more, because you may like to join the long queue of would-be-borrowers at your local library. Here you will find an involving story, lyrically told, by an author who’s immersed in the sights, scents and images of the northern countryside he knows and loves, and who paints his characters well.
It follows on well from the book I’ve not long finished: Julian Hoffman’s Irreplaceable. I was led to this book by Bookish Beck. It’s her book of the year. It may be mine too. Its subject matter is urgent: the destruction of our planet. Hoffman visits marshland in Kent that’s been under frequent threat of becoming another London airport. He visits Indonesian islands whose unique coral habitats have been partially destroyed through mining. He visits allotments outside London; a Macedonian National Park; Kansas prairie land … and so many more. Such variety, and all so threatened in different ways. Some of these stories end well, others badly, and yet others … who knows? This is though, a call to arms. Hoffman makes it clear that our future lies not only in the hands of ‘experts’, but in indefatigable ordinary people battling for their own communities, their own treasured landscape. And it’s not simply a battle between Progress and Tradition. Life is more nuanced than that. Sometimes, compromises may be needed. But what kind of compromises?
Though a fairly long book, this is an accessible one. The prose is evocative and to be lingered over and savoured. It’s an excellent, beautiful read as well as an important one.
And the next one to read? This time, that’s easy. Book Group is coming up: best get this month’s choice under my belt. An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones. If Barak Obama describes it as ‘moving’, one of his favourite summer reads of 2018, that’s good enough for me. I wonder what Donald Trump’s favourite book is?