Book review: ‘Turning the Boat for Home’ by Richard Mabey

A life writing about nature.

Turning the Boat for Home

I’m a big fan of Richard Mabey’s writing. Indeed, his wonderful memoir Nature Cure introduced me to the genre of ‘nature writing’—whatever that term is supposed to mean.

Turning the Boat for Home is a collection of loosely autobiographical miscellanea taken from Mabey’s occasional writing: radio broadcasts, book introductions, journals, etc. It’s a format I very much enjoy, providing as it does consistent yet unconnected pieces by a single author. This book reminded me very much of the wonderful collection Aftermath by Mabey’s great friend Ronald Blythe.

One thing I’ve always admired about Mabey’s writing is his lack of sentimentality and ‘spirituality’. In his prologue, he writes about his ‘commitment to a materialistic view of nature’, and admits to being ‘suspicious of grand overarching narratives’. Amen to that, Mr M!

There are many fine pieces in this collection. I particularly enjoyed the opening section in which Mabey writes about his early writing influences, and his embracing of reality over spirituality.

Throughout the book, Mabey demonstrates his love for, and commitment to, first-rate, unpretentious writing. As soon as I reached the end, I regretted my self-imposed rule not to read the same book twice in the same year. I suspect it’s a rule I’m about to break. But perhaps I’ll re-read Nature Cure first—and then, maybe, Ronald Blythe’s Aftermath.

Highly recommended.

  • Buy from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com (for which I receive a small commission)
  • …or, better still, buy or order a copy from your local, tax-paying independent bookshop, who could really do with the help.

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