The Shepherd’s Life – James Rebanks

 

This book has a bit of everything for everyone. As well as conjuring up the traditions  of generations against a backdrop of the beautiful Lake District, there is a strong human element, unexpected happenings and the perfect balance of detail and technical talk to keep both those with prior knowledge and those without a clue hooked throughout. It should be read by farmers, walkers, lovers of the British countryside and ancient traditions, anyone who has ever knitted or eaten lamb or even refused to eat lamb. Basically everyone, get you this book. There is also an illustrated version jam-packed with photographs that looks stunning or you can check out his instagram account full of sheepish goings on.

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Strong Opinions – Vladamir Nabokov

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Picked up on a whim, this turned out to be an unexpectedly fun read from the author of Lolita. A collection of interviews and articles, Nabokov comes across as someone who does indeed have ‘strong opinions’ and is a powerfully intelligent and uncompromising character who does not yeald to public demand or scrutiny. Yet his insistance on scripting all interviews, feeling his spontaneous English inadequate for expressing himself,  is the act of a man who cares what the world thinks of him. His mastery of the written word is never in question and the book brims with fantastic quotes from the very first sentence:

‘I think like a genius, I write like a distinguished author and I speak like a child’.

Covering a wide range of personal and global topics, including his beloved butterflies, this was a good book to dip in and out of. I didn’t make it through all the articles but enjoyed the interviews and have picked out a few great lines.

On Russia

I will never go back, for the simple reason that all the Russia I need is always with me: literature, language and my own Russian childhood.

On his travelling and where he feels is home.

The writer’s art is his real passport

On an artist’s motivation

I don’t think an artist should bother about his audience.

In short, it was the bizarre mix of self deprecation and arrogance in the very first line that led me to read all that followed in the voice of an eccentric genius and become very fond of the man and his peculiar ways. Nabokov feels very much a person belonging to a different culture and time and it makes for a fascinating read, in small doses before bedtime.

From: the library

Read: before bed – and not all the way through (shock horror!)

Felt: pleasantly diverted and in the presence of mad genius

Liked: the frank, grumpy honesty presented in flowery elegance

Would recommend: to fans of Russian writing and the literary set

* the postcard/bookmark is my favourite painting by Finnish artist Askeli Gallen-Kallela of lake Keitele, hanging in the National Gallery.