Book review – Lara Feigel – “The Group”

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Another print book from my TBR Challenge 2021-22 and another of the books that Bookish Beck kindly sent me in December 2020. This one riffs off Mary Macarthy’s novel of the same name, which I reviewed in 2007 but didn’t really remember – looking at my small review from then, it did cover a lot of the same ground, updated for the #MeToo years and likely to be as representative of its times going forward as the original.

Lara Feigel – “The Group”

(24 December 2020, from Bookish Beck)

So here we are then. Five exact contemporaries who once shared a cluttered, thin-walled student house off the Cowley Road, all privileged, white, middle-class, all vestigial hangers-on, left over from an era when we received free educations at our elite university and then emerged into a world where we could still just about find jobs and buy flats, provided with opportunities for selfishness and leisure by our cleaners and our childminders. Nothing very eventful happens to us, but that gives more room for the ethnographer in me to get to work. (pp. 11-12)

The narrator, Stella, and Priss, Polly, Helena and Kay, met at university and amazingly all ended up in London, now around 40 and living busy middle-class lives (Polly started off working class but is now working as a doctor) revolving around what read to me as a married, childless 50-year old with what one might term a quiet life an exhausting existence of marital troubles, milky babies and affairs. The narrative voice is cool and emotionless, even when describing emotions, and did remind me of Doris Lessing’s narrator in “The Golden Notebook”, so it was interesting that Rebecca mentioned this in her review (see link below).

It was interesting, like a sort of soap opera, and covered lots and lots of contemporary issues – is it OK to have a revenge affair, has the time of White middle-aged, middle-class men come to an end, is it OK to have affairs at all, is it OK to have a baby if it ends a marriage, is it OK to be a woman and still be the primary caregiver, what do you need to be able to write if you’re a woman, and also a hefty dose of #MeToo, as the uncle of one character / boss of another is facing losing his job over allegations from a series of women. That’s a lot to pack into a book and Feigel does it pretty well.

The omniscient narrator / first-person viewpoint choice does get a bit messy – we’re both in Stella’s head and observing the inner lives of the other characters, all very well until Stella’s present and then it gets a bit clunky:

I arrive, wearing a blue dress bought in yesterday’s lunch hour from a shop I usually think of as too young for me. Kay notices it, thinking that the sleeves are too baggy for my shoulders and that I look too determinedly fashionable. She thinks that it would look better on Priss. (p. 223)

Because quoted direct speech lacks inverted commas, at first you think this is reporting Kay’s spoken reaction, then you realise it’s in her head; at the end of this scene, Stella leaves and Kay feels irritated, jumping around in people’s heads again. There is a lot to be gained from this choice of point of view but it does pull this reader, at any rate, out of the narrative at times. And then, later on, Kay herself sits down to write a novel at last, which feels very like this one!

I also got a bit confused as to whether parts should be funny or not. There wasn’t much that was relatable to me, but I did enjoy reading about these people’s chaotic lives, full of secrets and revelations and shifting opinions on each other, making me appreciate my relatively calm time of it. I did like the variety of experiences and the different types of families that were being made; there was also some welcome and unfussy ethnic diversity. And in the end, in a massive echo of the next book I’ll be reviewing on Monday …

We have so much power between us, if we can take ourselves seriously, with our grief and rage and love and desire.

And our laughter, Polly said, laughing. Don’t forget that.

Maybe that’s what we’ll do in our forties, i said. Learn to use our power. (p. 318)

You can read Rebecca’s review and comparison with the original novel here.


This was TBR Challenge 2021-22 Quarter 3 Book 5/41 – 36 to go.

Book review – Eley Williams – “The Liar’s Dictionary”

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I’ve been making some good progress with my TBR Challenge 2021-22 this month, and at the time of writing this review, I’ve finished this and another one from the layout here. Maybe I will do it after all! I’m into the books that Bookish Beck kindly sent me in December 2020 now, and what a lovely variety of review copies of novels and non-fiction they are. Here’s a really quirky and fun novel that I feel had something of the tone and setting of “The Snow and the Works on the Northern Line” (and as such, I’ll be sending it to Emma, who also enjoyed that one).

Eley Williams – “The Liar’s Dictionary”

(24 December 2020, from Bookish Beck)

Mallory is a paid intern at an obscure dictionary, helping with a project to digitalise it in the hope that something can be made of it. Her boss, David Swansby, is the last heir to the unfinished dictionary project that bears his name and the huge crumbling building in central London that used to house a whole hive of busy lexicographers but is now home to Mallory, David and a cat called Tits, with the lower floors hired out for events. Mallory sits out her days, underemployed but enjoying the wordplay, but also every day taking calls from a person threatening to destroy their world. Meanwhile, her more practical girlfriend, Pip, who is more about action, enjoys the coffee shop job where they met but is becoming more and more frustrated by Mallory’s refusal to be her authentic self, including admitting their relationship to others.

In 1899, Peter Winceworth is one of that hive of lexicographers, researching words and writing out slips to go into the great work. He’s constantly looking for words for things that don’t yet exist, one of the delights of the book. Rivalrous with his colleagues in an office teeming with cheeky cats (although the cats have diminished to one by the modern-day sections, we assume this has happened naturally and even though the book has some shocking episodes, no harm comes to any cats; hold calm with the pelican bit and it will come good). At a horrible party, he meets an irresistible woman … but of course she’s connected to his bitterest rival. After a terrible day involving rushing around on trains to nowhere, explosions, discoveries and fright, he takes his hobby of making up slips with invented words and their spurious definitions and combines it with his work, inserting mountweazels into the august dictionary.

Back in the modern world in alternating chapters, Mallory is tasked with finding these invented words. But will she find them all, why are they there in the first place, and can she cope with the hoax and threatening phone calls? Both plots work their way gradually through, with lovely wordplay and fun all the way through both texts. We know it will be playful after the preface, which purports to be a serious piece about dictionaries but of course isn’t. I did think one part of the 1899 plot was a bit weak, but it involves a strong and independent woman so we’re good there, and all ends satisfactorily and with an air of positivity that’s common to both protagonists after you’ve raced through all the short chapters to get there.

You can read Rebecca’s review here.


This was TBR Challenge 2021-22 Quarter 3 Book 4/41 – 37 to go.

Book review – Raynor Winn – “The Wild Silence”

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Emma and I have finished another of our Reading Together books – we read a chapter or two of the same book every Thursday evening, chatting about it on Messenger as we go, and have done since the start of lockdown. We take a while to get through a book this way but that’s OK and we often find we benefit from this slow read. Here we are, reading this author’s first book, “The Salt Path” – and you can see all the books we’ve read together here. My friend Verity kindly sent me this one after we’d read “The Salt Path”, which she also gave me.

Raynor Winn – “The Wild Silence”

(07 January 2021 – from Verity)

As surely as removing heavy human interference from the land was allowing the wildlife to return to the farm, so Moth was surviving by returning to a more natural state of existence. Life re-forming and reshaping, not with man’s intervention but without it. (p. 273)

We were both keen to read this follow-up to “The Salt Path” – I think we both had the impression there was going to be more travel in it and I knew they went to Iceland, which attracted me even further to it. We were also worried that this would see the last days of Winn’s husband, Moth, and I think we might have Googled to check he was still around.

We found it a slightly disjointed book. There was quite a lot about Winn’s childhood and then the horror of her mother’s death; knowing that she would go through this eventually with her husband was even worse, but it was a very detailed memoir and quite difficult to read in its medical detail (but it’s important to have this kind of thing recorded, of course). Then we have Raynor and Moth’s time living in a converted chapel in Cornwall, followed by the amazing offer to renovate and caretake a farm they already knew and had walked past from an absent owner. Interspersed among these sections were details of the writing, publication and reception of “The Salt Path” and this was certainly the most successful and interesting part of the book for me; Emma, too, I think. It was particularly lovely to read about the walker they meet who has read an article about them and emulated their walk, also finding solace in nature.

Later in the book, they go to Iceland with friends and walk a pretty terrifying walk in the south of the island which, incidentally, I “ran” as one of those virtual runs you can do where you are shown where on a route you would have been, had you been terrifying yourself in Iceland rather than running around suburban Birmingham streets (it had a good medal, though). There’s no way I would have attempted that walk-and-camp, and I was impressed they managed; they find it hard but get through with grit and observing the other walkers (we got very invested in one particular walker’s story and had to read on one week to find out what happened to her!).

So Moth was helped by hard work and physical exertion: Winn does research and finds that there are certain chemicals emitted by trees and plants which are shown to aid healing and physical health in humans (although I’m not sure how that translated when they were in the barren landscapes of lava and moss in Iceland’s interior). It was positive to read about this slowing of the decline caused by Moth’s neurological condition, and while Winn certainly doesn’t press the idea that this could help everyone, it did worry both of us that people in a similar situation might draw (false?) hope from this. The other massive positive from this book is seeing how by writing the first book after undergoing bankruptcy and homelessness, Winn has given them financial stability.

Definitely worth reading and really interesting, if a bit traumatic at the beginning. Winn’s writing is lovely, descriptive and authentic, and I will continue to look out for her work.


Em and I seem to alternate nature/travel books with ones on social equity, race and society, and so we’ve chosen “Cut from the Same Cloth? Muslim Women on Life in Britain” edited by Sabeena Akhtar for our next read. It was an Unbound book which I supported and looks fascinating.

Book review – Tom Nancollas – “The Ship Asunder”

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Well at last I’ve managed to finish March’s NetGalley reads (I’m actually doing OK with my April ones, too!) with this interesting read about British maritime history through the lens of different bits of ships and boats from different eras.

Tom Nancollas – “The Ship Asunder: A Maritime History of Britain in Eleven Vessels”

(23 February 2022, NetGalley)

At the heart of this book is an absence, for ships are definingly perishable things. Sea washes, wears, squashes their hulls. Wind pulls, pushes, prises apart structural members or hull coverings. Salt abrades, corrodes, dissolves until a ship may scarcely be identifiable. Never mind shipwreck or naval engagements. Even in a clock-calm, a ship is a wasting asset. This is not just a story of ships’ lives, but of their afterlives too.

Nancollas, famous for his lighthouse book, puts together a history of British seafaring, war and trade through looking at different bits of ships that together make up a whole vessel – from the prow to the ship’s bell to the ship’s trumpet to the hull, the ropes and the masts. He follows a largely chronological path looking at developments in maritime technology, naval management and sea trade, although he does dart back and forth a little, as each chapter is also themed around both an area which he goes to visit (like the recently read “Shadowlands“) and something like developments in war, exploration, slavery (he’s not afraid to confront the more troublesome aspects of our maritime past) or the decline of seaside towns and villages.

The book is packed full of historical detail but Nancollas doesn’t assume too much prior knowledge and it’s easy enough to (ahem) navigate. He has a wide vocabulary and occasionally takes to flights of fancy but the prose steers clear of being purple. He’s good at digging into the characters involved in the history and is also very concerned about the, by now faceless and nameless, ordinary sailors who facilitated all these voyages but whose details were not recorded.

On slavery, Nancollas has an interesting view on reparations: we should raise the sunken slave ships from the sea bed and set them up as monuments, explaining slavery and its horrors. A lot of them were just left where they were, with no interest in their salvage, interestingly. It’s good to see this aspect covered in a book like this.

Are we now moving away from the sea? He looks at when this might have happened – probably when we switched to aerial warfare in the Second World War and then commercial aviation. But if we look around, there are many vessels in harbours, some fishing harbours still in operation, and the legacies of the old great ships in unexpected corners and hiding in plain sight (in the timbers of Liberty of London or a small Devon church, or a football stadium in Liverpool, for example).

A lively and interesting book. Thank you to Penguin/Pelican Books for approving me to read a copy in return for an honest review.

Book review – Julie Shackman – “A Scottish Highland Surprise”

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I have some lovely novels on the go from NetGalley this month and this one was a good and absorbing, fun read. Thank you to One More Chapter for getting in touch and suggesting I would like to read this in return for an honest review: you were right!

Julie Shackman – “A Scottish Highland Surprise”

(27 February 2022, NetGalley)

Sophie works for the big manor house in Briar Glen, a small Scottish town known for its elusive and romantic blue flowered rose, as a wedding planner. But when her boss tries to force her to upset a staff member because a celebrity wants a particular wedding date, she walks out. She’s also grieving for her beloved grandma and helping her mum and dad sort out her cottage … but there’s a surprise in wait for her, as her grandmother put all sorts of plans in place and has left her a shop and the means to stock it with collectable china.

Sophie and her grandmother shared a love of tea-sets and the author’s obviously done a lot of research on these (and/or loves them herself) – this knowledge is inserted naturally to show their love and appreciation – and Sophie’s credentials, when she comes up against a rather intimidating art critic who might be able to help her with a strange donation to the shop.

There is a love interest in the shape of said art critic and his (love?) rival, a local artist, but the book also concentrates on family relationships, the lovely working relationship of Sophie and her assistant, the mystery of the donated tea set and the information it’s hiding, and a dual-timeline addition showing why her grandmother was so keen for her to do what she herself wasn’t able to in the 70s (this is slightly unusual in that Sophie doesn’t find out all about that herself, it’s just for the reader, although she finds one mystery – to her – hint at one point).

I really enjoyed this escapist novel and its Scottish highland setting. The mystery was mysterious enough to hold my attention but understandable, and the characters were attractive. Sophie is independent and is shown setting up her business with the help of two women and people from her community. It’s not diverse, but then I’m not sure tiny Scottish highland towns are that diverse so we’ll allow that as long as it doesn’t become a habit in my reading (it won’t). A fun read and I will definitely explore her other work.

“A Scottish Highland Surprise” is out in e-book format now and paperback in July.

Book review – Larry McMurtry – “When the Light Goes” and “Rhino Ranch”

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I gave myself two books to read for my Larry McMurtry 2022 Re-reading Project for this month; the final two, fairly short in the schemed of things, “Thalia” novels, following Duane Moore, pretty well the last man standing of his generation by the end. I acquired these in March 2012 and read and reviewed them together in November of that year, and it’s interesting to see how my take on them has changed in that time.

Larry McMurtry – “When the Light Goes”

(27 March 2012)

“What have either one of us done but make bad choices?” Duane asked. “In your case it’s mostly been bad choices about women. In my case it’s been bad choices about food.” (p. 135)

We rejoin Duane as he’s back from his holiday to Egypt to see the Pyramids – unfortunately, this appears to be the “older man wish fulfilment” volume of the series and he’s immediately confronted with a perky chested employee of his (now his son’s) oil drilling company, an accomplished geologist and would-be sex kitten who’s actually alarmed by the act itself and wants some affection. Life in Thalia goes on as normal but interspersed with many sex scenes that are a bit distasteful, though always consenting – just that older man / (much) younger woman thing. Maybe I’m less accepting of such stuff these days.

There is poignancy, with older cast members leaving us, Ruth Popper shocking her old friends and the old corner store having turned into an “Asian Wonder Deli”, delighting the people of the neighbourhood. Duane has troubles with his daughters, as they appear to have made good marriages to rich Texas men but then things fall apart in a confusion of sexual orientations. Duane’s comment to Bobby Lee, his old friend / thorn in his side for all these decades, quoted above, sums up the book, as Bobby Lee is shot by a girlfriend and Duane has heart issues.

Larry McMurtry – “Rhino Ranch”

(17 March 2012)

For much of his life Thalia had mostly depressed Duane, but lately he had developed a kind of tolerance for it. Maybe it was just that as the funeral bell came closer to tolling for him he felt a tendency to linger in what had been, or maybe still was, home. (p. 24)

In this more upbeat and longer novel, we do lose to a large extent the young girls throwing themselves at Duane. He’s married to the one from the last book, and they’ve moved to Arizona, but he’s hankering to get back to Thalia and still seeking advice from his old therapist, Honor. Back in Thalia, K.K. Slater has set up a ranch to save the black rhino, with Bobby Lee and an elderly cowboy guarding the animals from a single watch tower. Duane’s grandson Willy shows the only sensible head in the family, getting a scholarship to Oxford and representing hope for the next generation, and Duane’s obvious fondness for him is a big point in his favour.

The most touching relationship in the book is between Duane and the rhino Double Aught, who escapes seemingly at will and is spotted all over Texas and beyond. Pacing on either side of the fence, they are both the great patriarchs, now with little to do, and much in common. There’s also a great scene where Duane confronts some elderly racists. And although there’s another very young woman who’s after him for a bit, Duane draws strength from and has great respect for Dal, a Cambodian woman who has been through war and come over to the US as a refugee and gives him food and friendship when he needs it.

He still had people, he still had duties. Not going on would be a betrayal of all he believed. (p. 237)

So Duane goes on, and lives through the remainder of the main action of the book, as the rhino ranch and various plans come and go. It’s only in the last chapter that we see his end, almost off-stage, but also get a round-up of those who are left. And like Double Aught, K.K. is never seen in Thalia again, as this elegaic novel ends.

Next month, we’re back to the 1980s and a pair of novels set among Las Vegas showgirls that I remember as being powerfully moving and bittersweet. I wonder if I’ve remembered them correctly!

Book review – Elizabeth Fair – “The Native Heath”

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I am being strict on myself this year and only joining in reading challenges I can fulfil from my own To Be Read shelves. Fortunately, when Kaggsy and Simon launched their new year-week challenge, the 1954 Club, I was able to take part, as I had an unread Elizabeth Fair novel languishing on my Kindle (the lovely people at Dean Street Press kindly sent me her whole oeuvre in ebook format from their Furrowed Middlebrow imprint rather a while ago; I have read most of the others).

Elizabeth Fair – “The Native Heath”

(21 February 2017 – from the publisher)

“Dear Goatstock! It’s our native heath.”

“It isn’t exactly a heath,” said the literal Dora. “It’s just a little village.”

But Julia was too enthralled to mind.

This is one of those delicious change of lifestyle / new house / new village books which I always seem to enjoy and which were seemingly a mainstay of mid-century, middlebrow novels. In this one, we meet Julia, widowed six or so months ago and living in a rented flat, just as she has inherited a house in the village of Goatstock – she was left it by an uncle, although it’s not certain exactly why she was chosen, as she has various other cousins. In fact, she invites Dora, always seen as the “poor relation” and as having had a “hard life”, to go and live with her – not to share the house as such (this is dwelt upon) but as a sort of companion/housekeeper. She also brings Nanny, who she now claims was her old nurse, although really she was a sort of housemaid; Nanny has very firm ideas on the rights and wrongs of things and becomes more difficult. We can add Robert, Julia’s late husband’s nephew, into the mix to give a younger person, and off they trot to do up the house and settle in.

There’s another cousin or two around, too, and Julia has various schemes to improve people’s lots, being one of those women people seem to confide in, and then Harriet and Marian, Harriet the orphaned niece of the rather wonderful village eccentric and Marian who is engaged to a missionary no one seems to like, even though she’s perfectly happy. When Harriet spies Robert, she starts machinating to get him and Marian together, and to avoid the irritations of the boy next door. The cast is complete by a selfish vicar, his exhausted sister and the woman who may or may not be trying to push her way into the vicarage and other locals such as Mrs Prentice and Mrs Minnis, who both seem to look down on the other, and the plot by a sub-plot about the threat of a New Town being built around them, which allows for meetings and discussions among the villagers.

It’s a very funny book, with social mishaps, buttonholings and set-pieces galore; it’s hard to know what Fair thinks of her creation, Julia, as she does seem to be mocking her (she becomes quite monstrous at times) but then she might be given a happy ending. Similarly, Dora is mocked by Julia but only for being different – she has given up on feminine fripperies and is quite happy with that, but gets on well with people, and Julia comes to a fairly upsetting (for her) conclusion about her cousin. So it’s a curious book with more to think about than it might at first appear.

Thank you to Dean Street Press for sending me this book in return for an honest review and sorry it took so long to generate said review!

This book fills in a year in my Century of Books, which I have been trying to fill for almost a decade, while being determined not to buy anything myself just because it fits …

Book review – Usain Bolt – “Faster than Lightning: My Autobiography”

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As I’ve read five of my seven print TBR books for this month, I decided to treat myself to a quick read and pulled this one off the shelf (It was next to “Running in the Midpack”, almost in the exact centre of the first shelf). I bought this from the Kings Heath Oxfam Bookshop; I recorded that I bought Craig Revel Horwood’s “In Strictest Confidence” at the same time, and I can say I was very much less disappointed by this one (you’ll find my review at the bottom of the quite other review I link to there!).

Usain Bolt – “Faster than Lightning: My Autobiography”

(13 June 2021, Oxfam Shop, Kings Heath)

It turns out I have two things in common with fastest man in the world Usain Bolt: we both dislike running cross-country races and we both have one leg longer than the other! So there you go. This is the engaging, honest-seeming and likeable autobiography, ably ghosted by my lovely client Matt Allen (whose name is on the title page and who is thanked in the acknowledgements for helping to get the words on the page: hooray), but sadly before I started working with him. Notably opening with a car crash which should have been more serious, it then rewinds to take us through his life from the early years or running around at school and wanting to be a cricketer through his development as an athlete, change from 200m and 400m to 100m and 200m, two Olympics Games and through to the 2013 World Championships in Moscow (so we don’t witness his third Olympics in Rio).

He’s honest about his shortcomings – being a bit slack on the gym work, liking to party, admitting he chose to move from the 400m to the 100m because both the training and racing for the 400m was too much like hard work – but he manages not to annoy us, with his cheeky persona and huge raw talent which even he admits could do with some help in the gym, and especially from doctors and massage therapists, to achieve those amazing things.

Although Bolt always appears so relaxed and chilled, even he has had moments of pressure and of difficult interactions with his home crowd: Jamaica appears unforgiving if you are a bit off or tired/injured when it comes to a big race. He’s also perceptive on the effect stress has on his competitors, noting their expressions and trying to help relieve the pressure, even, when he sees it in them. He mentions what he considered the rigorous drug testing programmes in Jamaica, angered at insinuations about his and others’ ability (he reminds a journalist forcibly at one point that no, he didn’t come out of nowhere: he had a history of winning ability right from schools championships as a child).

There’s a funny incident with an official when he wants to take a baton from London 2012 home with him, and an admission that he mislaid some of his medals once and just hands them to his team to look after. What is nice is that NJ, who travels with him and manages him, is a childhood friend, and he’s obviously very loyal to his family, too.

A fun and interesting read with more depth and psychology than you might expect.

This was TBR Challenge 2021-22 Quarter 3 Book 3/41 – 38 to go.

TBR challenge update

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I suddenly realised I’d forgotten to post the next quarter’s TBR Challenge update photo and calculation – amazingly (or not really, as there were fewer books involved) I have managed to keep track with the calculations this time.

So (having replaced the three books (two reviewed, one not yet reviewed) that I’ve removed from the TBR challenge pile this month before I remembered I hadn’t photographed them, we end up with this:

To remind readers, I was set a challenge to read everything up to and including Dave Grohl’s “Storytelling” by the anniversary of it arriving (on my husband’s birthday), so 05 October 2022. I read 12 out of the remaining 53 during Q2, which is not amazing but not terrible (four per month, even I can work that out).

You can compare it with the start of Q2 pictured here on the TBR challenge page. I had 41 books left at the start of April 2022 which leaves me with just under 7 books to read per month to hit my target. I have read three this month already, though, so we’re getting … somewhere.

Book review – Matthew Green – “Shadowlands”

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The second-to-last of my March NetGalley reads – I’m reading the two non-fiction ones alongside the mainly novels for April so think I’ll get there OK. This one takes a look at Britain’s lost cities, towns and villages in a wide-ranging survey which looks at some iconic and some lesser-known sites.

Matthew Green – “Shadowlands: A Journey Through Lost Britain”

(1 Feb 2022, NetGalley)

Taking a journey from the Neolithic Skara Brae in Orkney to the flooded valley of Capel Celyn in Wales, via the lost city of Trellech in the Welsh Marches and the drowned city of Dunwich and town of Winchelsea, Green does a good job of surveying the existing sources, both contemporary or near-contemporary to the place in question’s decline and then more modern, then visiting the place, or as near as he can get. He mentions in the introduction that he started this project just after he lost his father and his marriage broke up, and I worried that there would be too much personal stuff as well as the archaeology and history I came for, but in fact that didn’t intrude at all and the book was more traditional than I’d feared.

Green uses the different towns, arranged in date order, to look at shifts in society, such as the move to villages in the first place, the first and later enclosures, the population drop that came with the Black Death (though not so many actual villages and towns were lost as a direct result of this depopulation as we might think), changes in life opportunities that made traditional lifestyles drop out of favour and climate issues that have happened through history, other warmings and then coolings. He does then mention climate change at the end and considers what might happen to low-lying parts of Britain.

It’s a fascinating book with a lot of little passages about various topics, though I have to say the author tends towards the macabre and at some points it feels like you can’t have a field without something pecking at something else or a predator taking its prey. The pieces on Skara Brae and Capel Celyn as well as the STANTA villages in the East of England, taken over for Army practice in the Second World War and never given back; I didn’t know there was even a fake Afghanistan village built on the site now) were the most interesting to me, but each chapter had its moments.

I did find it odd that at one point the author mentioned in the last chapter the golden partridge as being a raptor (it’s not) as this seemed such a basic thing to look up that it undermined my faith in the parts of the book I didn’t know much about, but the things I did know did seem to be there correctly, so maybe it was a one-off.

Thank you to Faber and Faber for making this book available to me via NetGalley in return for an honest review. “Shadowlands” was published on 17 March 2022.


In yet another Bookish Beck Book Serendipity moment, in this book we see German submarines off St Kilda which echo the Second World War content in the recently read “Letters on Shetland“. Capel Celyn, the drowned Welsh village, also featured in “Brittle with Relics“, of course.

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