Up till now nearly all my posts have been about me, one way and another. However, I’m pleased to start making space for some of the beautiful, distinguished, prizewinning books that my friends and acquaintances have been writing.
Having posted a piece on Daughter by Jane Shemilt, I’m now delighted to write about Spindrift by Peter Reason, which recently won the Rubery award for best non-fiction book from an independent publisher (Vala Publishers). It was published in this spring this year and is a fascinating and beautifully written account of a sailing voyage from Plymouth to the Skelligs and the Blasket Islands in the far West of Ireland. It’s not only a book about a sailing voyage, though. Underlying the delights, difficulties and discoveries of the voyage itself is a deep concern with our relationship, or lack of it, to the natural world, and the devastation that this has caused. The book starts out with a koan – a question to ponder: wilderness treats me as a human being. Through his sometimes uplifting, sometimes frightening encounters with wild places Peter gains a deeper understanding of humanity-in-wilderness which he hopes can be applied to our current situation.
Like Jane and me, Peter is a member of a writing group which came out of the Bath Spa MA and has now been going for something like three years. I’ve seen the gradual honing of Spindrift into an engaging, honest and beautifully described account of an outer and inner journey in Coral, a small boat that is very much a personality in the book. We learn about Coral’s features, quirks and foibles and also about the technicalities of sailing, with all their richness of language. ‘Sheets’ are ropes, for instance, and the ‘heads’ the lavatory. For much of the voyage Peter was on his own with the sea and the weather, but for some of the time he also had crew on board and we get to see both their enjoyments and their struggles. ‘Wilderness treats me as a human being’ is more demanding than it seems. As well as some wonderful descriptions of seas, night skies, rock formations we get the daily detail of life on a boat in all its ordinariness, which brings us right into contact with the reality of the voyage.
I enjoyed Spindrift as an armchair sailor and can see its appeal to sailors and non-sailors alike. It is an involving account with a serious message and has the potential ‘to instruct by pleasing’.