The Peregrine – J. A. Baker

The Peregrine - J. A. Baker
The Peregrine – J. A. Baker

One Essex winter (or was it ten?), John Alec Baker carefully, methodically, calmly, found and followed the peregrine falcons that made the Chelmsford countryside their home for six months of the year.

Wonderful writing.

“A cock blackbird, yellow-billed, stared with bulging crocus eye, like a small mad puritan with a banana in his mouth.”

(And I am a bit squeamish about birds and dead things.)

This is the book that convinced me I needed to add Nature writing as a new genre category to SparklyTrainers. It’ll be broad, covering wildlife and the countryside.

Publisher page: The Peregrine – J. A. Baker

(Sort-of)Author’s page: J A Baker & The Peregrine – a website about the author, his writing and his Essex environment.

Reviews and related writing

Essex rediscovered: ghosts and falcons on a rural ride – Carol Donaldson, The Guardian, 28 January 2018

Violent spring: The nature book that predicted the future – Robert Macfarlane, The Guardian, 15 April 2017

A precise and poetic paean to the peregrine – Charles Moore, The Telegraph, 24 May 2010

 

The Last Tudor – Philippa Gregory

The Last Tudor - Philippa Gregory
The Last Tudor – Philippa Gregory

Although I’m familiar with the Tudors, having studied them for A-level and at the start of my degree, Lady Jane Grey, Queen for 9 days in between the death of (Protestant) Edward VI and (Catholic) Mary I, didn’t feature much; but I didn’t even know that she had two younger sisters – Katherine and Mary.

Philippa Gregory’s last Tudor novel tells their fascinating stories, Mary Grey’s particularly so.

With Edward VI’s death, the Tudor line could only continue with a female. The royal status of his half-sisters, Mary and Elizabeth, had been thrown into doubt by his father, Henry VIII. The Grey girls’ claim to the throne through their mother, the daughter of Henry VII youngest daughter, Mary, with  Mary, Queen of Scots’, claim coming through Henry VII’s eldest daughter, Margaret. Throw religion into the mix, and a bunch of powerful-but-not-royal nobles, and you’ve potential for plots galore.

Author’s webpage: The Last Tudor – Philippa Gregory

The Solitude of Thomas Cave – Georgina Harding

The Solitude of Thomas Cave - Georgina Harding
The Solitude of Thomas Cave – Georgina Harding

An account of the winter of 1616/1617 spent by Suffolk whaler-sailor, Thomas Cave, somewhere in the Arctic.

Alone, apart from the memories of his wife and child.

Splendid descriptions of ice and cold, the winter darkness and yearning for the return of the sun.

Publisher’s page: The Solitude of Thomas Cave – Georgina Harding

The Crossing – Andrew Miller

The Crossing - Andrew Miller
The Crossing – Andrew Miller

I did enjoy this novel, far more than You.

That said, it’s a bit of a strange combination, with parts 1 and 2 following the development of Maud and Tim’s relationship from meeting through the university sailing club to the arrival of daughter Zoe and the impact she has on the wider family relationships, and parts 3 and 4 covering Maud’s solo sail across the Atlantic after the death of her daughter and breakdown of her marriage. I found the ending a bit odd, disconnected from the rest of the already disjointed narrative.

Some of the reviews make it sound like there’s some uncertainty about Maud’s earthliness. I found none – her supremely self contained character has been shaped by her unemotional parents and the distant relationships that result.

Publisher page: The Crossing – Andrew Miller

Author interview: Andrew Miller interviewed about The Crossing – Foyles (No date)

Review: The Crossing by Andrew Miller review – Kate Clanchy, The Guardian, 29 August 2015