Wednesday, 23 January 2013


Sightlines by Kathleen Jamie was a Christmas present. I’d suggested it as a gift from one of my daughters after coming across a copy in a bookshop and liking what I saw as I flicked through it. What I’d read was enough to convince me that this was worth a read. I’ve now done so and can thoroughly recommend it.

If you are the sort that shies away from prose and creative writing then be warned. As much as Jamie’s writing is accurate natural history reporting it is undeniably descriptive, but her skills are in conveying not only her feelings towards a subject but also being able to transport the reader to the places that she is telling us about.

Each chapter is a separate essay, most of the action taking place in northern climes (Scotland, Norway, Greenland). They are varied in subject matter, from a whale museum in Bergen; a pathology lab putting cancers under the microscope; watching Killer Whales from a seabird colony; observing a lunar eclipse; through to glaciers and icebergs from the deck of a cruise ship. 

Most of my enjoyment came from feeling that I’d actually been present with her and had experienced the sights set before us. I really do feel as if I have visited that museum in Bergen and was standing with her by an open upstairs window watching the moon morph. She also has a way of conveying a child-like wonder in an adult’s world, which is not as easy as it seems. If you liked Tim Dee's The Running Sky (and who didn't?) then this will be worth your while.


Andrew Cunningham said...

Might try that. I enjoyed her earlier book, 'Findings'.

As for prose and creative writing then I just read The Wild Places by Robert MacFarlane and highly recommend it.

Steve Gale said...

Thanks Andrew, I've yet to read 'Findings'