SECOND OPINION: The Fish Ladder by Katharine Norbury

Review published on October 11, 2018.

This book is an addition to the currently very popular genre of engaging with nature as a means of personal healing, in the footsteps of H is for Hawk and The Outrun. The author was given up for adoption soon after birth and her earliest memories are of the nuns in the convent where her unknown mother left her. Knowing nothing about her natural family means she is always searching for some sense of belonging even as she enjoys a close and loving relationship with her adoptive parents. When she suffers a miscarriage this is a catalyst for embarking on a journey of discovery, ostensibly a search for the source of a river or the Well at the World’s End but really a search for her own beginnings.

At first I thought I wasn’t going to enjoy the book. Some of the writing seemed to be trying too hard to be ‘beautiful’ and some of the imagery felt contrived. As the journey progressed and the writer allowed her emotions and experiences to speak for themselves I felt more comfortable and more able to immerse myself in the story. This is a very honest book, raw in places and I felt almost voyeuristic sometimes as she exposed frailties in her circumstances and relationships. But it was a book full of love and family and the writer’s daughter Evie is a joyful thread throughout.

This is more an emotional discovery against the background of engaging with nature, rather than an exploration of the natural world itself but I enjoyed revisiting some of the places I have travelled to and at one point it felt as though the author and I had been walking in each other’s footsteps over a period of months!

Some of the images and literary parallels would provide interesting material for a book group to discover and I would recommend the book to any readers who enjoy the nature/life writing genre.

Rebecca Kershaw 4/4

The Fish Ladder by Katharine Norbury
Bloomsbury Paperbacks 9781408859261 pbk Mar 2016

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