Stream of national consciousness

Mudlarking Lara Maiklem, Bloomsbury, 2019 The 1950 B-film The Mudlark tells of an urchin who ekes out an unpleasant existence scavenging the slimy Thames foreshore. He finds a coin bearing the head of Queen Victoria, and creeps into Windsor Castle to see the sequestered sovereign for himself. Through sheer goodhearted pluck, he succeeds where sophisticated… Continue reading

Territorial waters

The Way to the Sea Caroline Crampton, Granta, £16.99 The Frayed Atlantic Edge David Gange, William Collins, £18.99 Seawater pulses through the veins of our islands, the tang of open water reaching to the furthest points inland. Insularity has always been our destiny, determining daily life and deepest meanings even before Albion loomed out of… Continue reading

A million acres, six thousand years

The Fens – Discovering England’s Hidden Depths Francis Pryor, Head of Zeus, £25 ‘Very flat, Norfolk’ drawls a character in Noel Coward’s Private Lives – a supercilious condemnation of another character, and by inference all eastern England. Francis Pryor proves that while the Fens may be level, their gentle undulations and cubist planes hold stories… Continue reading

Living with Leviathan

The Last Whalers, Doug Bock Clark, Little Brown, 2019 Our relations with cetaceans have always been charged with danger and delight, represented by the extremes of Revelation’s “beast out of the sea”, and the frescoed dolphin-riders of Pompeii. Rare, huge, and unknowable, whales have traditionally been omens, or metaphors for improbability – “very like a… Continue reading