Review Catch-up #3 from 2018

Yet another pair of shorter reviews of books I read at the tail-end of 2018.


Where Shall We Run To? by Alan Garner

I shall be reviewing this book at length for Shiny but it warrants a short write-up here too. I am a big Alan Garner fan (see here), and I can think of few authors who have such a sense of place that pervades their very being as well as their writing as he does. This slim memoir is an account of his early childhood growing up in Cheshire at Alderley Edge – the locale that has remained at the heart of his work ever since.

Alan Garner

It’s wartime, and Garner tells us of finding ‘bombs’, of his father going off to war, the Yanks arriving with sweets, and their detested headmaster ‘Twiggy’. Garner was cheeky, but a bit of a ‘mardy-arse’, a whinger, but he was also quite a sickly boy with several spells in hospital, where he essentially taught himself to read.

This is a delightful memoir of episodes from a bygone age, when boys could roam free to play once outside the school gates. The beginnings of his fascination with Alderley Edge and its rich mythology and history are there, but haven’t reached full-flight during this time of innocence. (9/10)

Source: Own copy. Alan Garner, Where Shall We Run To? (4th Estate, Aug-18) Hardback, 208 pages. BUY at Amazon UK (affiliate link)


Kings of the Yukon by Adam Weymouth

It was great to hear Adam Weymouth talk about his book, which went on to win 2018’s PFD Sunday Times Young Writer Award, at the blogger’s event back in November. He proved to be such an interesting person, with a particular interest in the people he meets and how their lifestyles are changing due to factors from other people’s actions to the effects of climate change.

These aspects of his interest are all chronicled in his book, Kings of the Yukon, which charts his four month adventure canoeing 2000 miles down the Yukon river starting from one of its tributary sources to the sea – following the path of the young King (or Chinook) Salmon as they go to see, but more importantly meeting the returning adult fish as they return home to spawn. Fewer fish are reaching the furthest reaches of the river, especially over the border in Canada. Chronic overfishing played a large part; bans limiting the fishing season are helping, but the damage may have been done. Apart from fewer fish, there are few young people staying to learn the way of life upriver.

The history of the salmon is the history of this land. Rock carvings in Alaska at the mouths of salmon streams are ten thousand years old. Big salmon etched into sandstone. Small salmon swimming upstream. […]

The Yukon River is the longest salmon run in the world. […] The McNeil, where we are headed, is the furthest of those that the kings are known to reach. No species goes further, which is to say, the few kings that make it back to McNeil Lake have travelled further up a river than any other salmon on the planet.

Weymouth manages to combine his sense of adventure and vivid portrait of the wilderness and river, with great empathy towards those who live by the river and make their living from it, into a riveting journey on the page which I enjoyed reading very much indeed. (9/10)

Source: Review copy – thank you. Adam Weymouth, Kings of the Yukon (Particular Books, May 2018) hardback, 288 pages. BUY at Amazon UK (affiliate link)

9 thoughts on “Review Catch-up #3 from 2018

  1. Thanks for reminding me of that Saturday afternoon, Annabel! I think you’re spot on about Weymouth’s interest in people. That came out so well in the way that he lets the people he meets tell their own stories.

  2. I’d like to read both of these. I don’t know Garner at all, but yours is just one of the many good reviews I’ve seen of this (very short!) memoir, so I think I’ll borrow it from the library. I’d better give up on PFD ever getting me the copy of the Weymouth I requested in early November, though.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      He’s one of England’s greatest living stylists (in my book!) noted for his all-pervading sense of place in his Cheshire home. None of his books, which are perhaps 2/3rds for children, are long. He chooses his vocabulary very carefully indeed – I went to see a lecture by him about his writing life and process and it was fascinating. (http://annabookbel.net/lecture-alan-garner)

  3. I really want to read both of these! Does the Garner book get as far as him going running with Alan Turing? That has fascinated me since I found out about it!

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      It’s literally just his childhood with a couple off what they did next style pieces at the end. I hope he writes more…

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