For some inexplicable reason, Kathleen Jamie’s Findings didn’t register on my radar for an entire seven years after its publication, until I finally got round to reading it and its sequel, Sightlines, in 2012. Jamie immediately became my favourite writer. A long-awaited second sequel, Surfacing, finally came out in 2019.
Jamie is a poet who writes wonderfully precise, unpretentious prose. She sensibly resists labels, and doesn’t like being thought of as a ‘nature writer’. But, in the absence of a more appropriate pigeon-hole, the nature writing section is where I shelve it.
Nature writing doesn’t usually include accounts of surgery museums, nighttime ferry rides, scans of city rooftops, or a spouse’s life-threatening fever. Yet all these topics somehow fit perfectly in this wonderful essay collection (which does, I hasten to add, also include plenty of more conventional nature writing).
One thing I particularly enjoy about Jamie’s writing style is how she writes as a non-expert, almost thinking out loud, admitting when she’s unsure of something. For a poet, she can also be remarkably dispassionate in her observations. When she encounters a dead gannet, her immediate thought is to cut off its head as a cool trophy for her study. The decapitation turns out not to be one of her better ideas.
This is an absolutely wonderful book. Go and buy it. And go and buy Sightlines and Surfacing too. You can thank me later.