Unearthed is part memoir, part investigation, based on author Claire Ratinon’s life, identity and Mauritian heritage.
Claire interlaces this theme with her love of gardening, and we join her in a journey which began with a garden on the top of a New York building. Roots play an important part both with family and the plants that she tends.
There’s much to consider and Claire provided some dark history lessons about the exploitation of Mauritius and the people who once called it home; slavery was rife. It makes for sobering reading as do her thoughts about where we are in the world with inequality and prejudice.
My favourite parts of the book were learning about some of the foods that grow in Mauritius and how the author was successful in growing them in her English garden. I also enjoyed the simple almost lyrical descriptions of nature and how the author nurtured her plants.
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Unearthed is the story of how Claire Ratinon found belonging through falling in love with growing plants and reconnecting with nature.
Like many diasporic people of colour, Claire grew up feeling cut off from the natural world. She lived in cities, reluctant to be outdoors and stuck with the belief that success and status could fill the space where belonging was absent. Through learning the practice of growing food, she unpicked her beliefs about who she ought to be. Over her first year living in the English countryside and with the first vegetable patch of her own, she finds a pathway back to nature’s embrace. And through growing the food of Mauritius, recording her parents’ stories and exploring the history of the island, she also strengthens her connection to her homeland.
Unearthed urges us to look to the world outside for the belonging and home we seek. It is a heartfelt call to reconsider our history, the way we think about nature and the complex relationships we all have with the land.
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