Highlights of Gill’s 2018 reading…

51yRkkqtfvL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_

Whitney Brown, Between Stone and Sky: Memoirs of a Waller (Constable)

I found myself unexpectedly immersed in this confessional memoir by a young woman from the deep south of the US, who turns down a secure job with the Smithsonian and becomes an “accidental” dry stone waller.

Filled with the heady romance, passion – and angst – of youth, it’s set against the beautifully evoked backdrop of remote and misty rural Wales. Her ill-fated affair with the Welshman who teaches her to wall runs through the narrative like a thread, pulling her back across the Atlantic time and again; until the age difference between them finally rends them asunder, and Whitney has to learn to value herself as waller in her own right.

*nb. We were privileged to get a visit from Whitney in Grasmere in November!

51RtuL3PEkL-2

Jon McGregor, Reservoir 13 (4th Estate)

I loved this amazing fly-on-the-wall portrait of a contemporary tourist hotspot, probably because of the way it reminded me so much of life in the Lake District!

It begins with the disappearance of a teenage girl, but quickly turns into a study of the rhythms and repetitions of village life rather than any conventional “missing person” mystery. Peopled with a wonderfully observed cast of characters – from Gordon the farmer who spreads his favours among the village women, Irene who cleans the holiday lets to support her autistic son, to feckless Martin and Frank, who go to see a dodgy man about a dog and end up buying an alpaca – this book is a page turner with a difference, a tantalising glimpse into the lives of others.

*nb. It goes without saying that Clive, and his excellent allotment work, are the stars of Reservoir 13 and companion book Reservoir Tales.