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.
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.
N.B. Some readers are having issues leaving comments at the moment across many WP blogging sites. The Happiness Engineers are working on a solution. Meanwhile this may work. Click on “Change” beside (Log in/Log out) below the comment field and re-enter your email and name, then click comment.
Franks has been reading Tales From The Hamlet by Cassandra Campbell-Kemp
Having recently completed reading two books that featured the horrors of World War Two, seeing this book on Rosie Amber’s list of books for review offered a refreshing change. I am also a sucker for those escapist TV programmes like “A Place in the Sun”, “Escape to the Chateau”, “Great Railway Journeys” and those in which a celebrity chef takes us on a gastronomic tour of some lesser known region, sampling the artisan produce and traditional recipes.
This book follows that pattern. It begins in Verona where Cassandra has just been informed that her services are no longer required. She is in her sixties, not in the best of health and her 30 year career in property sales and development is seemingly over. She faces an uncertain future. Fortunately she has friends and former business associates to whom she can turn for assistance, which is how she finds herself in a region of Northern Italy that she has not previously visited.
Her explorations of the geography, gastronomy, history and culture of the region form the bulk of the book. It is written in an easily accessible style. Her love of everything about the place and its people shines through. And there are cats. Who doesn’t love everything about cats? If social media is anything to go by, no-one! There is the queenly Geisha, Cass’s own aloof Persian, and Mimi the feline mistress in charge of a bevy of farm cats. All recognise in Cass someone whose attention is worth cultivating. So too, it seems, do many of the local proprietors of coffee shops, wineries and the artisan producers of bread, meat, wine and cheese.
There are many delightful descriptions of the villages and ancient buildings, both exterior and interior. One of Cass’s new friends is a member of a male choir and there are a couple of moving depictions of choral performances. Why then, you might wonder, only 3 stars|? Firstly, though the writing is good, this is no literary masterpiece. Secondly it is not a book with an important message to convey about life and relationships. Like those TV programmes I referred to at the beginning, it is informative and entertaining, an easy bedtime read.
By the end Cass seems to be on the verge of a new career promoting the region to potential second home owners and developers. The cynic in me whispers that the book is surely a part of that process, however, it appears that the new venture was cruelly postponed by the Covid pandemic; Cass has written elsewhere about her pandemic isolation back home in Wiltshire. For the same reason the sequel promised to at the end of the book will not now happen. One message that does come across is that Cass is a strong and resourceful woman, well able to take unexpected reversals of fortune in her stride.
At the age of 61, Cassandra, a single and peripatetic Brit, was asked to pack up her house and move to Italy to take up the offer of a much-needed job. 15 months later she was made redundant, leaving her unnerved, broke and unable to return home. Her dream of a new life was rapidly turning into a nightmare and, saddled with all her belongings, her antique furniture, over 800 books and her aged Siamese cat she had nowhere to go.
A kind friend offered them sanctuary in a tiny converted former barn in his family’s ‘Borgo’, a cluster of rustic properties grouped around a late-Medieval manor House in the mountains; the beautiful and mysterious Emilian Appenines of northern Italy. There she was befriended and watched over by the owner; an eccentric octogenarian, his household ghosts and 14 semi feral cats.
The experience proved to be challenging yet deeply transformative as she struggled to recover her equilibrium and rebuild her life.
Chase That Smile is the memoir of Harold Cabrera; a man who, approaching his fortieth birthday, decided to make it a milestone year. Harold planned to run a marathon, climb Mount Kilimanjaro and take part in an Ironman triathlon contest all in one year.
In this very readable but candid book, Harold takes us through his seven month training and his three experiences with the highs and lows in between. Harold has a very positive and appreciative attitude which helps motivate him.
I liked how he interspersed snippets of his training with a few day-to-day points as well as memories from other times. They helped to round out the book and allowed the reader get to know Harold. I often felt that we were right there running, cycling, swimming and climbing with him. The back of the book contains some training schedules for both a marathon and an ironman for those who might want to give any of it go. I thought that the book was well worth the read; from an armchair experience point of view, the Mount Kilimanjaro climb, in particular, was delightful.
39-year-old dad of two, Harold Cabrera is your typical sports weekend warrior, who decides to complete three big challenges before turning 40.
Chase That Smile is his account of relationships, family life, good times, and hard times. Of training for three major physical challenges all in the same year – running the Paris Marathon, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, and completing an Ironman triathlon – whilst in the midst of juggling a full-time job and being a parent.
More than just a personal account of every challenge faced, Harold provides insight into nutrition, the importance of training plans and most importantly how he developed the right mindset needed to take on such big endurance challenges – each battle needing both physical and mental stamina. As impossible as it sounds, with a bit of grit, a positive mindset and some minor life organisation, this book will show you how much you can truly achieve!
The Salt Path is a memoir about walking the South West Coastal Pathway, a route that goes between Minehead on the northern Somerset coast to Poole on the south Dorset coastline. Two people, homeless, one terminally ill, walking and finding the beauty in the rawness of life.
Ray and Moth are a middle aged couple; after a bad business investment and years fighting through courts they find themselves homeless with less than £50 a week to live on. On top of that Moth has been diagnosed with CBD ( corticobasal degeneration). With nowhere to live, they decide to walk the coastal pathway, wild camping and living as frugally as they can.
This is a beautiful story; harrowing and painful, but also full of hope. It highlights homelessness in the UK and how the homeless are treated. It also shines a light on the kindness of strangers.
Walking parts of this coastline is on my bucket list and I have an opportunity to walk it with a friend. She gave me this book to read; I’m looking forward to dipping my toes into the salty pathway that others have travelled and finding more than just the views along the way.
Just days after Raynor learns that Moth, her husband of 32 years, is terminally ill, their home and livelihood is taken away. With nothing left and little time, they make the brave and impulsive decision to walk the 630 miles of the sea-swept South West Coast Path, from Somerset to Dorset, via Devon and Cornwall.
They have almost no money for food or shelter and must carry only the essentials for survival on their backs as they live wild in the ancient, weathered landscape of cliffs, sea and sky. Yet through every step, every encounter, and every test along the way, their walk becomes a remarkable journey.
The Salt Path is an honest and life-affirming true story of coming to terms with grief and the healing power of the natural world. Ultimately, it is a portrayal of home, and how it can be lost, rebuilt, and rediscovered in the most unexpected ways.
The Backpack years is a dual autobiography from the authors of this book and is about their early adult years spent travelling in Asia, Australia and parts of Europe.
It begins a couple of years into the 21st century with separate accounts of how Stef and James came to be backpackers and where they met. Following chapters detail their times together and their struggles with work, relationships and travel.
The book is written in alternate chapters from Stef and James, so at times there is an overlap of a situation or a tale. These are the memoirs of two young people making their tentative steps into adulthood and all the frustrations and responsibilities that a life as a couple brings.
As a memoir about an important era in their lives, I believe that this works well and I’m sure that close family and friends may well enjoy reading this as it will fill gaps in their knowledge of the couple.
However, if you picked this up for its backpacking and travel content, do remember that events took place 15-20 years ago. I’m not sure that I was the right audience for this book, I enjoy armchair travel, but some of the things that these young people saw and took part in made me quite sad.
A Young Lady’s Miscellany is a book written in the style of a memoir about a young woman’s experiences of growing up. Instigated by the discovery of a Victorian self-help guide in her Grandmother’s belongings, the author loosely uses ‘advice’ in the book as she weaves her way through life.
I believe that this reflection is about the author’s life rather than a work of fiction which took me a while to work out and to settle into the narrative. The writing pace skips along— never letting up— as we gallop through a vast amount of past history from the narrator’s early teen years to her twenties. Most of the writing is linear in time but sometimes the author dots back to an earlier episode in life.
Memoirs can be an awkward genre to review as their content needs to appeal to enough readers; some are more suited to friends and family who already know the writer, while others have a subject matter within that is interesting to a wider audience. I found this story hard to warm to, although I did become more engaged with the characters the further I got into it and it was the last third which I found most interesting. My main disappointment, however, was that I thought that the book was going to be a Victorian story featuring the lady implied by the book title and part of me kept waiting for that story to begin.
What’s a girl of fourteen to do when she finds herself alone in the world with no one to guide her? Why, follow the Victorian self-help guide, ‘A Young Lady’s Miscellany’, of course! The trouble is, the advice it offers proves less than helpful in a contemporary context. Muddling through, often with disastrous results, she finds a friend in her recently widowed grandmother, the door to whose small house is always open. Inept at any job she is able to get and pursued by a slew of unsuitable suitors, she must instead spend a decade navigating her own miscellany in order to come of age.
One Month In Tohoku is an Englishwoman’s memoir about life after the 2011 Japanese Tsunami.
Author Caroline Pover was on a solo holiday in Saipan when the disaster occurred, though she had lived in Japan for several years and thought of it as her adopted home. The pictures and news from Japan were terrible and Caroline felt a deep need to do something for the victims, but she had no suitable rescue skills. Instead, she flew back to England, and began using her network of contacts to raise money and supplies for the survivors.
This is an inspiring story of one woman’s idea which expanded across the globe. The fundraising campaigns and the generous support which Caroline received were brilliant. She then went on to take the supplies to the heart of the people who needed them. With a determination to raise spirit, Caroline initially filled two lorries with items and later she organised goods to be delivered to a local distribution point.
Caroline went to the Oshika peninsula, a six and a half hour drive north of Tokyo where people had only the clothes that they were wearing when they escaped the tsunami. Their houses and businesses no longer existed and they were sheltering in cramped emergency conditions.
This was more than a one-off plan. Caroline returned to the area as often as possible and she listened to what the people needed; she used financial donations for projects to help rebuild the communities. She kept all the sponsors informed of how their money was spent, and this built up a great relationship between the donors and the recipients. One of the main problems with many of the charities today is that people believe that their money gets used up in administration and transport costs, but Caroline made sure all of the money and sponsorship went directly to the people.
This book is much more than just one month in Tohoku; this is the story of the people and the communities and how they rebuilt their lives, and about the kindness in the world for complete strangers. Caroline has returned to Oshika almost every year. Although so much of it is sad, there is also so much that is good and happy. I think anyone who has ever considered voluntary work would enjoy reading this, especially those frustrated by the red tape which often prevents the right donations getting to the people who really need them.
On March 11, 2011, one of the biggest earthquakes in history occurred off the northeast coast of Japan, triggering a deadly tsunami that destroyed much of the Tohoku coastline.
Driven by a desire to help the people of Tohoku, long-time Tokyo resident Caroline Pover embarked on a mission to collect emergency supplies from her native UK. Caroline delivered these supplies to an isolated part of Japan that even many Japanese have never heard of: the Oshika Peninsula. While there, she saw beyond the horror of the debris and destruction, and fell in love with the beauty of the landscape and the spirit of the people who had called the peninsula home for hundreds of years since their samurai ancestors first settled there. Compelled to do whatever she could to help, she promised to return, once more, just for a month …
“One Month in Tohoku” is the true story of what became the many months Caroline spent visiting Oshika. During extended periods of time over the course of many years, she lived alongside the people of Oshika, and they embraced her as one of their own — she still visits them to this day. This book tells us about a very traditional way of life in a remote community that cares deeply about all who are a part of it. It is the story of how, after a disaster took away everything they had, these seemingly forgotten fishing communities are still rebuilding their lives. It is also the story of how a network of people from all over the globe were inspired to donate millions of yen to support families, schools, and businesses, and to never forget the survivors of the world’s costliest disaster.
To commemorate the ten-year anniversary of the tsunami, Caroline has set out in words a deeply moving tale of the very human impact of a natural disaster. Readers will cry tears of laughter as well as tears of sadness, and be touched by Caroline’s surprising humour and honesty and that of her Oshika friends as they unexpectedly become so beloved to one another. This is the story of a beautiful friendship between a very determined Englishwoman and the incredibly brave and resilient fishermen, women, and children of Tohoku.
An unexpected read that delves deep into the issues that athletes and fans face when things go wrong in sport.
A few decades after leaving the sport behind following a rather harrowing event, ex sports journalist Ian Probert returns to investigate boxing and all the changes that have occurred since his last foray into the sport. And change it has…
Based on the blurb, I was expecting a book on boxing but, instead, I got a memoir punctuated by meetings, memories, and the good (and bad) that the sport brought out in the author. This was an interesting story that delved into the depths of the human psyche, and charts the effects that wins, losses, and retirement can have on fighters and fans alike. It is not always comfortable or indeed pleasurable reading, but it is a very interesting memoir cum investigation that makes you think about the sport in very different ways.
*Thank you to the author and to #RBRT for my free review copy.
A quarter of a century ago journalist and author Ian Probert decided never to write about boxing again. His decision was prompted by the injuries sustained by boxer Michael Watson during his world title fight with Chris Eubank. Now, in common with so many fighters, Probert is making an inevitable comeback. Dangerous sees Probert return to the scene of an obsession that has gripped him from childhood. In the course of numerous meetings with a number of leading figures in the fight game, including Herol Graham, Steve Collins, Michael Watson, Nigel Benn, Ambrose Mendy, Rod Douglas, Frank Buglioni, Kellie Maloney, Glen McCrory and Jim McDonnell among others, Probert takes a look at how lives have changed, developed and even unravelled during the time he has been away from the sport. From an illuminating and honest encounter with transgender fight manager Kellie Maloney to an emotional reunion with Watson himself, Probert discovers just how much the sport has changed during his absence. The end result is one of the most fascinating and unusual books ever to have been written about boxing.
About the author
Ian Probert has been scribbling down words ever since he learned to spell the phrase: ‘Once upon a time…’. He is the author of Internet Spy, Rope Burns and a bunch of other titles. Internet Spy was a bestseller in the US and made into a TV film. Rope Burns is a book about why books shouldn’t be written about boxing. Ian has also written things for a shed load of newspapers and magazines. When Ian was a student he used to write lots of letters to the bank manager.
There is always more to say reads as a memoir about a long friendship between two people who first met in London in 1984. The narrator had a job in a Soho café and met Alex when she swapped shifts one day. Alex was here from the States and the pair bonded and kept in touch sporadically throughout their later life.
This a pouring out of all the unsaid emotions, passions and frustrations the narrator felt about their relationship. The sub-characters all have suitable cross gender names which leave the reader guessing and double guessing as to who they really were; Sam, Charlie and Ashley are all cleverly written to give little away. Sometimes it worked and other times the lack of any real labels to attach them too became annoying. There were also some places where the narrative became repetitive which slowed the storyline. I did enjoy the quotes at the beginning and ends of chapters. This is an unusual book, but a quick read.
A heartfelt novel about the connections that bring people together.
Soho 1984: Two people meet and their worlds are changed forever. An unexpected meeting – a look that means their lives will never be the same again.
In There Is Always More To Say Lynda Spiro chronicles the lives of the couple through friendships, marriage, fleeting moments and snatched time. It is a passionate account about a connection between two people that never dies even when tested by distance and when life throws the unexpected at their feet.
About the author
Lynda Young Spiro is a mixed media artist whose love of textiles, found objects and recyclable materials are incorporated into her colourful work. Lynda was born in 1959 in Hampstead, London, where she now lives with her husband and two sons. Her previous book Latch-Hooking Rugs is published by A & C Black.There is Always More to Sayis her first novel.
Georgia has been reading A Minger’s Tale: Beginnings by R.B.N Bookmark
There are many reasons why someone writes a book and for this author it was the death of his father that was the trigger for him to start telling his story which is in the form of a memoir, and this, as the subtitle promises, covers the early days of his life, from the 1960’s to the 1980’s.
I was a little behind on some of things this writer experienced for two reasons. Firstly, I am a few years younger so my terms of reference are a little off, and secondly, we grew up in very different worlds. Ribban, for that is what everyone calls him, was born to strict, hardworking Irish immigrants and was brought up on the harsh council house streets of Manchester, while I was not.
I really enjoyed the reminiscences of his family and of a childhood growing up among the regeneration (or as he calls it disintegration) schemes that gave the local children an unusual playground of empty houses awaiting demolition to play in. Ribban was a naughty child who struggled to settle into school, and later into work, and he was in and out of hospital which set back his education. He talks candidly about the corporal punishment he endured (something seen as perfectly normal at the time) and about being rubbish at maths and with women, although that became more apparent later on. I have to add that I absolutely loved his mother – her defence of him when he started at St Iggy’s was priceless and the time when she went to get a job – I could picture her perfectly.
The things I did not enjoy so much was the author putting himself down all the time by using the term minger. As we are told at the beginning of this book the British slang definition of this term is someone who fell out of the ugly tree at birth and hit every branch on the way down. I suspect some readers will also find some of the one liners a little cheesy. But you know what this is an honest book, telling things like they are so I guess these are pretty true to life.
There is so much to comment on as you read this book, unemployment, riots, the effect the Thatcher era had on the North that it’s well worth a read if only to compare lives and experiences during this time.