Clare Havens

'The streets were dark with something more than night…' Raymond Chandler


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I have gradually come to the realisation that the writing I am most enjoying nowadays is nature writing and this initially came as a surprise. I wondered if Robert Macfarlane’s masterpiece Landmarks was responsible. However, on reflection, I have always loved books which evoke a strong sense of place – including weather and landscape. Alexander McCall Smith’s books about Botswana with Mma Ramotswe’s appreciation and love of the dry lands and the Botswanans’ attunement to and gratitude for the coming rains have long appealed to me as has Margery Allingham’s writing about the estuarine coast of East Anglia where I grew up, so evocative I can almost smell the mud at low tide.

I recently wrote of my admiration for Patrick Leigh Fermor’s writing – Between the Woods and the Water in particular – this book is many things, travel writing, history, political analysis, reflection on literature and linguistics – all of which appeal to me – but it is also nature writing and I urge everyone to get their hands on a copy of any of PLF’s books and devour it.

So, I have always loved writing with a strong sense of place including landscape and weather but during this last month I came across a book which is clearly labelled ‘Nature Essays’; not perhaps something I would usually pick up but I bought Braiding Sweetgrass by Native American author and Professor of Botany Robin Wall Kimmerer for my daughter who is fascinated by the historical uses for plants and also native peoples. However, once I started reading I couldn’t hand over the book until I had finished it. Not that it is a book one can rush through. It is such a thoughtfully written and thought-provoking book that I relished taking my time over each chapter. It is a moving and powerful book which stays with you well after you have finished reading it and I highly recommend it.

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Photo copyright Clare Havens 2016

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