Common Ground

by Rob Cowen

A strange book about a local edge-land.

Common Ground

This book, which has received rave reviews, wasn't what I expected. I was expecting a fairly typical ‘nature writing’ account of the author's local patch of edge-land near Harrogate in Yorkshire. Perhaps I should have read the dust-jacket more carefully:

Blurring the boundaries of memoir, natural history and novel, Common Ground offers nothing less than an enthralling new way of writing about nature and our experiences within it.

I have to be honest, and say that I didn't find this book in the least bit enthralling. I had no problems with the memoir and natural history elements of the book, which were pretty much what I had expected, and were entertaining. But the ‘novelistic’ elements of the book left me cold, occasionally infuriating the hell out of me.

My loss, I recognise, but I simply am not interested in fictional accounts of: foxes going out on disastrous hunting expeditions; mad tramps with hare-lips drinking coffee in Caffè Nero; roebucks being pursued by medieval (I think) huntsmen; young couples going for a shag by the river; and so forth.

I appreciate that I'm being entirely inconsistent here. One of my favourite writers, W.G. Sebald, made an art of blending fact with fiction in this way. But Common Ground just didn't work for me at all.


Note: I will receive a small referral fee if you buy this book via one of the above links.

By Richard Carter

A fat, bearded chap with a Charles Darwin fixation.

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