I am a sucker for a nice looking book. Sightlines–the UK version, at least–features a flock of sea birds taking flight against a dark blue sky. It’s the same dark blue I see when I look up at the sky in the evening these days. Not quite full dark but a beautiful intermediary that conveys a promise of the dark and stars to come.
You have to make yourself love the dark if you live in Scotland (or at least make an attempt) because in the winter we have very little daylight. At the darkest time of the year here in Edinburgh, we see the sun around 8:45 am and say goodbye around 3:45 pm. Of course–and we seem to forget this come December–in June we have light almost all day. I’ve come to welcome the gathering dark rather than rebel against it (although I have been known to complain). Why get mad at the earth’s annual trip around the sun? Could there be a more futile pursuit?
All this is to say that when I saw Sightlines in the bookstore around Christmastime, there was no way I was leaving without it. Nature writing, based in my beloved Scotland, by a lady (nature writing seems pretty male dominated, so i’m always looking for lady authors to round things out). I was hooked.
But then it was so boring.
There are a few essays here that I found compelling. The one about visiting a pathology lab–I loved that one. There are nice bookended essays in which Jamie describes encountering orcas off the coast of Scotland. The orca essays in particular made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
The rest of the essays I found strangely humorless. There are several that refer to a trip she took to St. Kilda (the first, appropriately titled “Three ways of looking at St.Kilda” I quite liked) and as I read them I realized they were all referring to the same trip, but didn’t acknowledge this directly. The essays didn’t seem to hang together well; in one piece she refers to the first time she saw orcas as if we hadn’t just read that essay at the beginning of the same volume.
Jamie certainly takes her relationship with nature seriously and I do appreciate that. I do prefer essays with a bit of a dynamic voice–I’m not sure I would enjoy hanging out with her very much.
It’s possible that by January I just wasn’t in the right mood for this anymore. You know I’m going to read her second essay collection, though. The cover is freaking gorgeous.