The Salt Path by Raynor Winn

dsc_06474258139930410043374.jpgThis incredible book has been devoured. You know a book has you when you are drying yourself after a shower one handed in order to grab a quick page. At emotionally vulnerable times it could easily have felt corny to seize on a book with a torrid, heart breaking tale, put your favourite sad songs on repeat simply weep.

This book, though, about a journey on our very own South West Coast Path, told by Raynor Winn, but also about the incredible journey of a time in life with her beloved husband Moth, hits that sweet spot emotionally. Stomach twistingly heart breaking, yet so beautiful it paints rainbows across your tears. Winn crafts this deeply personal, brutally honest wander through the roughest tracks of life with such poise, it seems outrageous to think she hasn’t been previously published.

Thrown into the void of life after being evicted from their home, their life’s work gone, the follow up punch comes instantly when Moth is given a terminal diagnosis. What to do? They head for Minehead.

And from there, learning the errors of their preparation, or lack of it, as they go, they set off for Lands End (and beyond?) on foot. Camping wild and surviving on ¬£40 a week, their wits, their humour and the spark they’ve carried together through their entire adult lives, they battle on.

Progress can be slow, painful or simply non-existent and Winn describes, sometimes agonisingly, often hilariously, the people they meet, the towns and villages they pass through, or linger in, and their encounters with the elements.

So life size is the narration, I found myself smelling their clothes, feeling the drying of their skin, hearing the sounds of the Atlantic, the call of the sea birds and shifting uncomfortably with the book as she describes some of the ground they slept on.

I can’t pretend that the books proximity to home (both in geography, emotion and ambition) doesn’t add an extra personality to its appeal to me personally, but please, please believe me, it is a wonderful thing.

Winn echos the message so delicately reinforced by my very own wondrous adventurer, soul mate and partner for life in reassuring me that hope is actually a GOOD thing. Why not hope, dream, dare or just ****ing DO IT!

If you want your spirits lifted, your emotions exposed, your adventurous bones ignited then this is surely the book for you. It has already become one of our most treasured possessions.

Check out what else I’ve read so far this year HERE.

 

 

 

Serious Sweet

SERIOUS SWEET by A.L. Kennedy РA Review
dsc_0278-15707862062120858160.jpg

Regular readers (should there still be any!?), will know that Alison Kennedy is one of my favourite ever authors. I was sure to delve into this rather hefty novel on the front foot, although rest assured if I hadn’t loved it, I wouldn’t be writing about it now.

Nicky (my rather splendid, completely beautiful and awe inspiring lady wife) always claims I have a leaning towards, as she says, ‘high brow’ books. I think the industry calls it ‘literary fiction’, although I couldn’t give a shit what it’s called, I either enjoy a book or I don’t. And, Nicky, i do believe you’re currently reading the vintage autobiographical novel, Heartburn, by Nora Ephron. High brow indeed!

This heartbreaking, yet heart warming, tale is told without any suggestion of formula. The prose combines a personal third person narration with soul searching internal dialogue. And the same method is applied to both the main characters.

Powerful it is. Floyd’s ‘Two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl’ lyric would surely be on the soundtrack to the movie this book DEMANDS to be made into.

A flawed love story of flawed love as our two main characters battle their way through 24 London hours. There’s a darkness to Jon and Meg, our hopes for them never soar too ambitiously as we fear for their fate. Jon, in late middle age, working within the inner reaches of the civil service and privy to the hideous secrets that come with that, finds a unusual outlet for his feelings and emotions. Meg, a recovering alcoholic and bankrupt accountant, lost and alone in a crowded city, takes the bait and seeks refuge in Jon’s words.

Will destiny allow this unlikely pair to find romance? Told by the two protagonists in short bursts, the day starts and finishes in darkness, but will there be light?

The attention to detail, the imagery, the complex plot and history, together with the deeply personal voices make this a compelling read. It has to be read, there’s no room for skimming or presumption. Falling asleep with this book in my hands was always a frustration, I would grab it on awaking and even read a page whilst the kettle boiled for morning coffee.

Not a small book and it demands the readers’ involvement, but boy it’s good.

There are no ‘cheats’

Nope.

My two favourite hobbies. The one I tend to do alone and the one I sometimes do alone but MUCH prefer it if my beautiful wife is doing it with me.

“Of what do you witter now?” I hear you cry…..

Writing, of course, and running, naturally. Although keen observers have rarely described me as running ‘naturally’!

Anyway, it turns out you can’t just pitch up with your pen or your trainers and instantly be a published author or complete a marathon.

Nope.

You’ve got to write.

You’ve got to run.

Luckily for me I REALLY enjoy running and I REALLY enjoy writing.

Phew!

It all depends what I want my hobbies to give me back.

I could run like Forrest Gump (and there’s plenty who’d suggest I already do!) and still never become an ‘elite’ athlete but I will always get so much pleasure from each and every step.

Writing, on the other hand, well, there might just be a chance of writing becoming a double edged sword, slicing backwards and forwards through the fatigue of life. Yes, with some focus and commitment, writing might just open a few doors.

So what does a man who is regularly barely able to drag his aching feet high enough to stand on the bulging demands and pressures on his time trying to squeeze them into the available hours do?

Signs up for a Creative Writing course. Naturally…….

Wish me luck…….

White Tears by Hari Kunzru

After three wonderful, exhilarating, life affirming years of marriage to Nicky, my world, my reason, my soul mate, I find myself reflecting on just why she has transformed my life, my whole being.

There are reasons by the bucket load.

Just one example: Books. At various times during my life I’ve been a keen reader. But, it has taken sharing a space with someone who KNOWS how to live in the pages of whatever is in your hands, someone who isn’t afraid to say “I can’t wait to get back to my book”, someone who will happily share two hours in a book shop.

One of our most prized possessions is our Waterstones loyalty card, eagerly watching the stamping at the till as we approach yet another £10 discount.

Wonderfully, also, we don’t do genres, we aren’t confined to fiction or non-fiction. Believe it or not we don’t just read about running, cycling and swimming!

As our ‘to be read’ pile starts to diminish we both start mentally preparing our justifications to unleash another armful of tomes onto the counter on our next pilgrimage.

Books. Yup. We like them.

Anyway, I’m waffling……

I’ve finished a couple of books in the last two weeks, and as I declared on ‘the other blog’ I intend to only write reviews of those I’ve thourougly enjoyed.

I picked up White Tears by Hari Kunzru after having seen off a more standard thriller Don’t Let Go by Michel Bussi. Bussi’s latest work was a great, pacey, page turning who-dunnit-and-why thriller. Enjoyable but perhaps I was ready for something which challenged me further, explored a bit of me.

Well White Tears has certainly done that. A tale of friendship, of hurt, of obsession of darkness which explores its characters to their core.

The geeky lad, playing with technology, exploring sound, forms an unlikely alliance with the cool student. Popular and confident, from an extraordinarily wealthy family, Carter sees Seth to be the curve that closes the circle of his craving.

Carter collects and is absorbed by old blues and rare black music, chasing those rare catalogue numbers on fragile 78s.

Seth’s gathering of obscure sounds using his own obscure technological creations, combined with the scratchy tones of obscure blues recordings becomes an art form in itself.

A chance collision of old and new from their increasingly fractious teamwork sends both their worlds into chaos.

And the story too.

As tragedy and mayhem crowd in on him, Seth’s life becomes a search for the reason behind the cursed recording.

Hooking up with old blues collectors, Carter’s sister, crazy chess players and the characters living in the home of the poor man’s blues, in the deep south.

It is a tale of a young man barely clinging to sanity, told in an increasingly anxious tone as Kunzru dares the reader to turn each page.

Tragedies of old play throughout the challenge of today as Seth is increasingly sucked into the characters behind the torture that created the ‘cursed’ recording.

An exploration into the extremities of the power of music, its role in racial divisions, class conflict and the souls of us all, White Tears is a broken record of a tortured tale. I read it in less than a week, fighting sleep in my urgency to go with Seth to the next town, the next chapter.

Wonderfully following no formula or fitting with any agenda or genre, I would unreservedly recommend it. I do think it will polarise, like Marmite, but I do love a bit of Marmite…….