Alright, alright, alright!

Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey

Image of the cover of the book Greenlights by author Matthew McConaughey to accompany the book review by The Reading Edit on the same page. Cover features a headshot of the author deep in thought.

Alright, alright, alright!

Greenlights isthe memoir of Academy Award winning actor, Matthew McConaughey. I listened to the audiobook of Greenlights, narrated by the man himself. I wouldn’t typically be drawn to anything by Matthew McConaughey (movie, book or otherwise), so I was very surprised by how much I enjoyed his memoir. It is candid, intelligent, insightful and highly entertaining. The truth is, I couldn’t put it down!

This isn’t a memoir of some wild Hollywood playboy or a rags to riches story. Greenlights is Matthew McConaughey’s thoughtful retelling of his most pivotal, life-affirming or life-changing stories and adventures. Along the way, he offers his bumper stickers and prescriptions for life, poems, notes to self and ‘green light’ moments. 

So what are ‘green lights’? In the words of McConaughey, green lights mean go, advance, continue. They give us what we want and don’t interfere with our direction. Sometimes green lights can be disguised as a yellow or a red light – they might present as a caution, a detour, an interruption, a death, sickness on merely a thoughtful pause. They slow us down or stop our flow, but somehow, they give us what we need. McConaughey suggests that throughout life we can identify where the yellow and red lights are and engineer our course to catch more green lights, the path of least resistance. 

This is not a conventional memoir. Nor is it an advice book. McConaughey, aged 50, describes it as an ‘approach book’. The content for his memoir is based on 35 years of journal entries, poems and prescriptions for life. 

“I haven’t made all A’s in the art of livin, but I give a damn. And I’ll take an experienced C over an ignorant A any day.”

Greenlights, Matthew McConaughey

McConaughey was studying law before he diverted to film school (green light!) and later got his first movie role in ‘Dazed and Confused‘ (1993) (green light!) where the legendary line ‘Alright, alright, alright’ was born (green light!).

His early family life in Texas and a life spent travelling the world (including a gap year in Australia as a Rotary exchange student) make up much of the book, rather than his Hollywood exploits. He readily admits that he gets more inner growth and satisfaction from his travels than his career. 

McConaughey candidly shares the green lights that lead to his most successful movies, as well as his decision to turn his back on a highly successful rom-com career. Ultimately, this red light became a green light when after nearly two years without work, declining some of the biggest and most lucrative roles in Hollywood, he ultimately landed the role of Ron Woodroof in Dallas Buyers Club (2014) for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor.

Greenlights gave me everything I want from a memoir. I laughed, I learnt, I was inspired and I was always entertained. 

“Greenlights – here’s to catching more of them. Just keep livin”

Greenlights, Matthew McConaughey

Published 2020 by Headline, 304 pages (audiobook 6 hours, 42 minutes)

The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth

Cover of the book The Good Sister by author Sally Hepworth featuring a pink paper cut out of two sisters holding a bunch of flowers against a bright blue background. Image is to accompany the book review by The Reading Edit on the same page.

Australian author, Sally Hepworth, brings us her sixth book just in time for the summer holidays. ‘The Good Sister’ is the perfect holiday read with a captivating story, a cracking pace, lovable characters, humour, suspense, plenty of twists, drama and a satisfying ending.

The story revolves around twin sisters, Rose and Fern, and alternates between each of their perspectives and between their childhood and the present.

Fern is portrayed so wonderfully, I loved her right from the start. She is a librarian and loves her job at the local library. She avoids loud noises, bright lights, crowds and anyone looking for help with the photocopier. Fern’s interactions with library visitors and staff are delightful and bring much warmth and humour to the story. She has dinner three nights a week with her twin sister, Rose.

Rose has always looked out for Fern and protected her. The sisters are very close, bound together as twins and by shared secrets from their childhood. Early in the book, the reader learns that there was a tragic event that occurred when the girls were 12. As a result, Fern has never been able to fully trust herself, often questioning her memory and doubting her capabilities. Fern relies on Rose, just as she does her strict daily routine.

Rose is married, however her husband has recently left her and she remains desperate to have a baby. Fern sees this as an opportunity to repay Rose for all that she has done for her, however unforeseen events soon threaten to disrupt Fern’s carefully structured life and reveal deep secrets from their past.

‘The Good Sister‘ is a compelling story of family, love and the ties that bind us. It is part mystery, part romance, part thriller and part domestic drama. There are a lot of elements to this story, but the author weaves them all together so seamlessly and by doing so, creates a story that is highly engaging and addictive. This was my first Sally Hepworth novel. I enjoyed it so much, it definitely won’t be my last.

Published 2020 by Pan Macmillan Australia; 328 pages.

An Invitation to Die For…

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

Cover of the book The Guest List by Lucy Foley featuring a white cover with the title written in bold red and below it is the outline of a rocky isolated island. Image is to accompany the book review on the same page.

The Guest List’ is a 373 page, fast and furious mystery-thriller! The story is set at the wedding of golden couple, Julia and Will, on an isolated island off the coast of Ireland. A storm is brewing, emotions are running high and tightly held secrets threaten to bubble over during the course of the weekend.

Then, as the celebrations get into full swing and the full force of the storm reaches the island, someone is murdered and the motives are about as long as the guest list for this high-end event.

‘The Guest List‘ is a succinctly written yet multi-layered story with a thrilling plot and lots of surprising twists along the way.

There are several main characters and each has their own compelling story to tell. The story unfolds through each of their perspectives, but even with so many characters, it is easy to follow and keep up with the snappy pace of this thriller.

Whilst it lacks the depth of other popular thrillers such as ‘Gone Girl‘ and ‘The Girl on the Train‘, it is a quick, engrossing and exciting read, making it a great book to pick up on your summer holiday.

Cheers to that!

Published 2020 by HarperCollins, 384 pages

A Captivating Story of Identity

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

Cover of the book The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett featuring two facial profiles lying side by side, one black and one white, Image is to accompany book review on the same page.

The Vanishing Half is the story of identical twins, who grow up in the small, southern, black community of Mallard until they run away together at age 16, seeking a better life.

Mallard isn’t a typical black community. It is idealistic in that it values lightness of skin. Hence how many years after leaving the town, one twin has returned with her black daughter, while across the country, the other twin secretly passes for white, living a privileged life with her white husband and blonde-haired daughter who know nothing of her past. 

Once inseparable twins who ultimately choose to live in two very different worlds: one black and one white.

For over two decades, the twins live separate lives, without ever seeing or having contact with each other. That is until fate intervenes and the lives of their daughters’ intersect – revealing confronting admissions and revelations from them both. 

The story is told over several decades, from the 60s through to the late 80s, from Mallard to New Orleans, Los Angeles and New York. It is a wonderfully engaging story and a very unique approach to the topics of race, segregation and prejudice. 

But surprisingly, so much deeper than the story itself, is the underlying concept of identity. The story is told through each twin, as well as their daughters, introducing several multi-layered perspectives of identity with respect to race, gender, privilege and class.

Through her subtle and intelligent writing, Bennett prompts the reader to consider why a person would seek an identity so opposingly different to the one into which they were born. Such self-determinacy does not come without challenge and sacrifice, but the possibility lies in opportunity, freedom, self-expression, privilege and the potential to live a happy and fulfilling life without fear or prejudice. 

‘She hadn’t realised how long it takes to become somebody else, or how lonely it can be living in a world not meant for you.’

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (page 169)

With so much to unpack in this novel, The Vanishing Half would make a fascinating book club discussion and is one of my favourite books that I’ve read this year. This one won’t be vanishing from the shelves anytime soon.

Published 2020 by Dialogue Books, 343 pages.

Funny, Heart-warming and Utterly Unpredictable

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

Cover of the book Anxious People by Fredrik Backman featuring a very anxious looking man holding a sign featuring the titleand author's name against a light blue background. Image is to accompany the book review on the same page.

As the title suggests, this is a book about a group of anxious people. 

There is a would-be bank robber, who has made a terrible mistake, and a group of people at an apartment viewing who suddenly find themselves in a hostage situation. 

And they are the worst hostages ever! Not even slightly threatened by the would-be bank robber, the hostages are drinking wine in the closet and are intent on ordering free pizzas from the police; all the while opening up about themselves to each other, revealing their own, individual insecurities and anxieties.

I loved the characterisation in this book. There are ten characters, which is a lot, but it’s not hard to follow because of the way it’s written and the fact that each of the characters are so unique. I particularly enjoyed the interaction between the father and son police officers, tasked with rescuing the hostages and solving the case before a special investigative team from Stockholm are sent to take charge. 

Ultimately, ‘Anxious People‘ is a book about being human. And it’s a reminder to the reader that you never really know what is going on in someone else’s life, or why they act or behave the way that they do. Everyone is just trying to do their best every day.

Whilst ‘Anxious People‘ deals with some pretty serious subjects and is a very heart-warming read, it is also very funny! It reminded me of the movie, ‘Death at a Funeral’; similar in that there is an underlying hilarity and quirkiness which makes it very entertaining, without taking away from the seriousness of the issues raised.

This book made me laugh out loud, at times catching me so unaware and being so utterly ridiculous, almost slapstick, that I could actually imagine this book as a stage show. If it was a stage show instead of a book, I think that at the end of the performance you’d leave the theatre having had a really good laugh, perhaps shed a tear of two and think, “Well, that was a really good night out“.

Published 2019 by Penguin Random House, 336 pages.

Page-turning Australian Murder Mystery

The Survivors by Jane Harper

Cover of the book The Survivors by Jane Harper featuring ocean waves crashing into the wall of a rocky cave. Image to accompany book review on the same page.

Kieran Elliott lives with the guilt of the events that occurred one devastating day twelve years ago, when a once-in-80-year storm hit the small, coastal town of Evelyn Bay. The consequences of decisions made that day were fatal, and the disappearance of a local, fourteen year old girl was never resolved.

When Kieran returns to visit Evelyn Bay with his young family, it is soon apparent that all is not forgotten or forgiven by some of the locals. Then, the body of a young waitress is discovered on the beach. 

For Kieran, the investigation that follows presents questions that can’t be ignored, and revelations that prompt him to reconsider everything he thought he knew about the events that unfolded on the day of the storm. 

The Survivors is the fourth novel from popular Australian crime writer, Jane Harper. Her other books include The Dry, Force of Nature and The Lost Man.  As with these previous novels, The Survivors is an absolute page turner, with plenty of twists along the way. It delivers several interesting, likeable, well-crafted characters and a story that keeps you guessing right from the start.

I love the unique and distinctly Australian landscapes Harper features as the settings for her books. In The Survivors, Harper has captured the rugged beauty of the east coast of Tasmania; a coastline of sunken ships, enormous caves that tunnel through the cliff face, and cold, blue ocean as far as the eye can see. 

Jane Harper offers enjoyable and dependable murder-mysteries and has a real knack for teasing out a story. Whilst the ending wasn’t necessarily predictable, it didn’t come as a complete surprise either. But overall, the rest of the story was so entertaining and the ending still believable that I really didn’t mind.

Published 2020 by Pan Macmillan Australia.

An Australian Epic by the Author of The Book Thief

Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak

Cover of the book Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak featuring the silhouette of a boy sitting on a roof and behind him is an orange sky. Image is to accompany the book review on the same page.

Bridge of Clay is Zusak’s next novel following the huge success of his international best-seller The Book Thief, and it couldn’t be more different. It is an Australian epic of family, love and loss – and it’s an absolute ripper.

At 579 pages, you can really immerse yourself in this sprawling family saga, set largely in the outer suburbs of Sydney. The story revolves around five brothers – the Dunbar boys – Matthew (the eldest and the narrator of the story), Rory, Henry, Clay and Tommy. Their mother is dead, their father has fled. The five boys, aged in their teens and early 20s, are growing up together in the family home.

A family of ramshackle tragedy. A comic book kapow of boys and blood and beasts.

Matthew Dunbar, Bridge of Clay (page 9)

They live with an assortment of pets collected by the youngest brother, animal lover, Tommy. The pets are each named after characters from the great Greek literary works, The Illiad and The Odyssey. So named perhaps in tribute to their mother, Penny Dunbar, who carried the books as a young immigrant from the Eastern Bloc and went on to lovingly read the stories to her sons, just as her father had read them to her.

Following the death of the boys’ mother, their father has retreated to the outback, in a house beside a river that overflows in big rain and isolates him from the town.

Our protagonist, Clay, is 16 years old and the fourth Dunbar boy. He is quiet and sensitive, yet also extremely physical. Always training for something, but none of them, including Clay, know what that is. All they know is that whatever it is, when that day comes, he’ll be ready.

And that may just be the day their father (only ever referred to as ‘The Murderer’ throughout the book) returns to ask the boys for their help to build a bridge over the river by his home. The sudden, unexpected return of their father is not welcomed by the boys; Clay, the only one who agrees to take their father up on his offer.

As the story unfolds, the building of the bridge provides a metaphor for the slow, rebuilding of the relationship between Clay and his father and the healing from grief following the death of their mother.

Clay will absolutely work his way into your heart. His young life has been marred by immense loss, tragedy and grief, but also love. As Matthew writes on page 10

“Let me tell you about our brother. The fourth Dunbar boy named Clay. Everything happened to him. We were all of us changed through him.”

Matthew Dunbar, Bridge of Clay (page 10)

Bridge of Clay will have you laughing out loud at unexpected moments. Equally, there will be times when your heart will swell with sadness and grief for the Dunbar boys, particularly Clay. With both scenarios, Zusak often catches the reader off-guard with his trademark laconic style.

Bridge of Clay took Zusak over ten years to write, and I for one am so glad he persevered.

Published 2019 by Pan Macmillan Australia, 592 pages.

Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid

Cover of the book Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid featuring multiple images of the same picture of a girl talking to a security guard with a small child at their feet. Image is to accompany book review on the same page.

Much of the hype surrounding this book is based on the premise of a racially charged incident that happens late one night at a supermarket when an African-American girl called Emira is falsely accused of kidnapping the young, white child she babysits. According to the inside cover of the book, this incident ‘sets off an explosive chain of events.’

Personally, I found ‘Such a Fun Age’ less explosive and more sizzle, with the whole incident at the supermarket wrapped up by page seventeen and only loosely connected to the other events that unfold throughout the story. Emira herself is so embarrassed, she rejects the offer of another shopper’s video footage of the altercation, insisting she would rather just forget that the incident ever took place.

Emira is the most likeable character in the book. She is a 25 year old, university graduate whose current working life consists of three days a week babysitting Briar and two afternoons a week transcribing text for the Green Party at their Philadelphia office. As is typical of young people her age, she is preoccupied with going out with her friends, meeting boys and worrying over her finances and career (or lack thereof). Not to mention the impending problem that she’ll no longer be included on her parents’ health insurance once she turns 26.

The novel is written from the two alternating perspectives of Emira and her boss, Alix, a white, 33 year old mother of two (toddler Briar and baby Catherine) and a successful social influencer. Alix is insecure and narcissistic. Following the incident at the supermarket, her efforts to get to know her black babysitter better are self-serving, obsessive and cringe-worthy.

As the story unfolds, Emira starts dating a white guy named Kelley Copeland. Kelley is kind and sincere in his affection of Emira, however he noticeably surrounds himself with black people and has a history of only dating black women.

I thought the character of Emira cleverly represented holding up a mirror to white people’s interactions with black people today. By doing so, ‘Such a Fun Age’ adeptly highlights racism, privilege, class, fetishizing and the embarrassing trend of white people trying to demonstrate just how progressive and woke they are. 

This book may not have launched on the trajectory that I thought it would from the incident at the supermarket, however it is a fresh, interesting take on prejudice, class and privilege in America today. ‘Such a Fun Age’ is an entertaining read with stories within the story on topics such as friendship, love and motherhood. I particularly loved the relationship between Emira and little Briar. 

The last chapter is told through the perspective of Emira, who discovers the type of contentment one feels when we shake off the expectations of who we should be and just be ourselves. The story wraps up, not necessarily in a nice, neat bow, but perhaps just as it should.  And not without one final stinging nod to privilege and class.

Published 2019 by Penguin Publishing Group, 320 pages.

A Timeless Portrayal of Female Friendships Set in Naples, Italy

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

Cover of the book My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante featuring the face of a young girl looking straight ahead into the distance. The cover image is in black and white and is to accompany the book review on the same page.

Admittedly, I’m a bit late to the party with My Brilliant Friend by Italian author Elena Ferrante; it was originally published back in 2012. Since then, it has sold over 11 million copies worldwide and been made into a successful series for HBO, scripted entirely in Italian.

The story follows two girls, Elena and Lila, as they navigate life from childhood to adolescence, growing up in a poor neighbourhood on the outskirts of Naples.

Lila is fearless, tough, rebellious and unpredictable. At school, her brilliance and ferocious intelligence soon becomes apparent. By contrast, Elena is quiet, reflective, insecure and diligent. They fascinate and depend on each other, but never in equal measure. Their friendship is complex; layered with love and rivalry; a constant desire to be doing as well, or better, than the other.

‘I devoted myself to studying and to many things that were difficult, alien to me, just so I could keep pace with that terrible, dazzling girl.’

Elena, My Brilliant Friend (page 47)

Both girls have an enormous appetite for learning, knowledge and discovery. However, there is little opportunity for smart girls to escape their oppressive lives in poor, post-war Naples, and the odds are greatly stacked against them. Dangers, hardships and violence permeate their city. Family rivalries and shifting alliances are common place, as is the looming threat of the Camorra – an Italian Mafia-type organisation established in the Campania region of Italy, of which Naples is the capital. 

While Elena goes on to study at middle school (an opportunity her mother resents), Lila must withdraw from school and instead begins work at her father’s shoe shop, where she is ambitious and determined. Elena and Lila’s paths diverge, but their intense friendship cannot be replaced or replicated, and so their destinies are seemingly entwined.

My Brilliant Friend is without nostalgia and sentimentality and is a timeless portrayal of female friendships. The setting of post-war Naples makes it a gritty, complex, coming-of-age story.

My Brilliant Friend is Book One of the four book series known as the ‘Neopolitan Novels’ by Elena Ferrante. Together, the four novels capture the lives and friendship of Elena and Lila from young girls through to women in their 60s. 

If you haven’t already read My Brilliant Friend, pour yourself a Chianti, settle in and immerse yourself in this honest, heart-breaking and beautiful story of two brilliant friends.

Published 2012 by Europa Editions, 336 pages.

Over 10 million Copies Sold!

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Image of the cover of the book Where the Crawdads sing by Delia Owens featuring a girl in a canoe paddling out to sea with a pink sky in the distance. Image is to accompany the book review on the same page.

I admit, the swamps and marshland of North Carolina aren’t my usual go-to setting for a novel. But in Where the Crawdads Sing, Owens paints such a beautiful picture of this region and demonstrates such care and knowledge of nature beyond aesthetics, that you can’t help being swept away in the peace, light and beauty of coastal Carolina.

As a young girl, Kya is abandoned by everyone in her family. Alone in the family shack on the marshlands of North Carolina with only the seagulls for company, Kya must learn to survive on her own.

But Kya is resourceful and resilient and has talents she doesn’t know exist. Throughout the story, she forms connections with a handful of people from the town. Some of these people become firm friends and an anchor for Kya as she navigates life alone in her marshland home. Others arrive, only to leave her hurt and adrift, with renewed feelings of distrust and abandonment.

As well as weaving a careful story of Kya’s journey through her teen and young adult years, there is also the unraveling story of the town’s star quarterback, Chase Andrews, who has been found dead in the marsh. Soon, Kya, the ‘Marsh Girl’, is the prime suspect and facing a future in prison, far away from the safety and comfort of her beloved marsh.

Where the Crawdads Sing is the debut novel by Delia Owens, a 70 year old, retired wildlife biologist. Prior to penning her first novel, a New York Times article describes Owens as ‘a reclusive, 70-year-old scientist, whose previous published works chronicled the decades she spent in the deserts and valleys of Botswana and Zambia’. 

Perhaps understandably then, the publisher originally only published 28,000 copies of the book. Two years later, Where the Crawdads Sing has sold 8 million copies worldwide. It has topped the New York Times Fiction Best Sellers of 2019 and 2020 for a combined 100 non-consecutive weeks. 

I love that this same New York Times article quotes Owens as saying “I have never connected with people the way I have with my readers…….I wasn’t expecting that.” Seems as though there might more than a little of the author reflected in spirited, nature-loving, loner, Kya. 

Published 2019 by Hachette Australia, 384 pages.

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

Cover of the book Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman featuring the outline of an upside down head. The head is filled with the ocean and there is a lone scuba diver descending down into the deep. Image is to accompany the book review on the same page.

Caden Bosch is a high achieving, 15 year old, high school student. He lives at home with his mother, father and younger sister. He has friends he meets with after school on Fridays to design computer games.

Caden Bosch is on a ship headed for Challenger Deep, the deepest point on Earth in the southern part of the Marianas Trench. On board, his fellow crew mates largely keep to themselves, aware of the constant scrutiny of the ever-present captain and his scheming, treacherous parrot.

Challenger Deep is a moving and compelling journey of a teenager grappling with his mental health through increased paranoia, anxiety and depression. This story is so cleverly written by Neal Shusterman. Constantly moving between two worlds – Caden’s increasingly detached version of reality, and life onboard the pirate ship. The startling connections between the two worlds becomes apparent as the story unfolds and it serves to convey what it would be like to sail the dark, unpredictable waters of mental illness. As Caden’s disconnection from reality becomes more apparent, he is aware of the quiet concern from his family and friends. He reflects on the concern felt from his mother:

‘I feel her wave of worry like a patio heater – faint and ineffective, but constant.’

Caden Bosch, Challenger Deep (page 48)

The short, snappy chapters of one to three pages keep the reader’s thoughts jumping from one world to another, creating somewhat disoriented reading, perhaps to give the reader deeper insight into Caden’s increasingly scattered mind. As well as weaving a careful story of the two intertwining worlds, the reader also gets insights into Caden’s general observations on life. For a deeply serious subject, there is plenty of humour throughout the book and a few outrageous characters to provide light relief. 

I enjoyed an author chat with Neal Shusterman, courtesy of ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ bookstore at West End, Brisbane. This is a deeply personal story for Shusterman, his own son having journeyed to the deep. In fact, the drawings and poetry scattered throughout Challenger Deep are his son’s own; all ‘drawn in the depths’, as Shusterman reflects in his Author’s Note. With Challenger Deep, Shusterman hopes to give reassurance and comfort to those struggling with mental illness and their families, and greater empathy and understanding of mental health for us all.

Published 2020 by Walker Books Australia, 320 pages.

Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty

Image is of the cover of the book Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty. Cover features a young boy walking along the beach with his backpack on and a bird soaring overhead. Image is to accompany the book review on the same page.

This is the diary of a year in the life of Dara McAnulty; a fourteen year old boy, growing up in Ireland, with a deep love of nature. Through the turning of the seasons, Dara’s observations of nature are told with childlike wonder and amazement, but also with wisdom and insight that belies his years. 

Dara lives with his mother, father, sister and brother. They are a very close family, together sharing a love of adventure and nature. Everyone in the family is autistic, except for Dara’s father. His parents were once told that Dara would ‘never be able to complete a comprehension, never mind string a paragraph together’. In actual fact, writing helps him make sense of the world. In Diary of a Young Naturalist, Dara’s words are poetic, heartfelt, brave, compassionate and inspiring.

Woven alongside Dara’s observations of nature in each changing season are typical teenage and family events. He is very honest about the bullying he has endured at school up until this point. At the end of Spring, the family relocate to the east coast of Ireland, Dara starts a new school and is finding his place in the world. He is invited to go on field trips with conservationists. 

Increasingly, his connection to nature brings a stronger need for awareness and conservation. His frustration, disappointment and feelings of helplessness in regards to the protection of nature and wildlife are shared by many of us, and in his book, Dara urges and inspires us all to keep taking action, to keep caring.

The feelings of so many of us, young and old. Those of us that care. We feel it, every hour of every day. It’s heart-wrenching and exhausting, but it’s vital to keep pushing on, doing heartfelt things.’

Dara McAnulty, Diary of a Young Naturalist

Dara notices and knows so much about the natural world around him; from the tiniest bug to the oldest trees; from birds of prey to the regular feathered visitors in his backyard garden. I wanted to read this book slowly; to absorb all of Dara’s observations and relate them to my own, here on the other side of the world in Australia. I wanted to stop and look and appreciate the nature that exists alongside us everyday. There is a lot of solace to be found in nature. It’s the antidote to our busy, anxiety-filled lives. Dara’s observations plug you into nature, prompting a stillness and awareness that connects deeply with your heart.

‘We all have a place in this world, our small corner. And we must notice it, tend to it with grace and compassion.’

Dara McAnulty, Diary of a Young Naturalist

I love the navy blue hardcover of this book, the typeface and the texture of the pages. I love that it’s in the form of a diary and that the young naturalist’s year is divided into the seasons. At the end of the book is a delightful glossary which includes the pronunciations of words in both English and Irish Gaelic. The inside front and back cover has a rough map of Northern Ireland indicating several places mentioned in the book.

Diary of a Young Naturalist is a small book that gives so much. I simply adore it.

Published 2020 by The Text Publishing Company, 288 pages.

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