Thursday, 1 October 2020

Four Female Memoirs I've Loved in 2020


As some of you will know if you've read previous posts or follow me on Insta, I have now started my MA in Travel and Nature Writing. I received my place to study on this MA back in March and I have been raring to go ever since. I decided to use that excitement and energy to prepare myself and have been doing as much reading as I can.

One particular focus for me has been reading travel and nature memoir's by women. Travel and nature writing as a genre has historically been dominated by men by fortunately that is starting to change. We are now seeing a lot more books in these genre's being written by women and they are truly spectacular. As a woman wanting to enter into this field of writing it is very inspiring.

Today on the blog I thought I would share four of my favourite female written nature and travel memoir's I have read so far this year.


Rootbound: Rewilding a Life by Alice Vincent:
Another powerful female driven storyline with a strong botanical link, this book is a non fiction memoir following a life changing year for Vincent as she breaks up from her long term relationship and is faced with rewriting the future she had so carefully constructed for herself. The book chronicles both her break up but also her love of plants and growing that become a lifeline as she navigates a new life. She draws on the fascinating history of female botanists (true heroines and rebels) as well as natural sciences and history about London's most well known and unusual green spaces. It was such an interesting read and I can't wait to see what she write's next.


A Honeybee Heart Had Five Openings by Helen Jukes:
This is a rather special book for me as Helen was one of my teachers on my writing diploma at Oxford university. At the time she was working on the final drafts of this book and did a reading for us which of course made us all extremely excited to get our hands on this book. It took me a while to get round to reading it but it was the perfect lock down read to enjoy in the sunshine of my garden.

Dissatisfied, over worked and unhappy the book chronicles Helen's journey for a year as she becomes a bee keeper in a bid to find meaning in her life as a women in her late 20s. The reader get's to follow Helen as she decides to get a hive of bee's for the bottom of her Oxford garden. She slowly becomes obsessed with the science and nature of bee's and as I reader I couldn't help but become obsessed along with her. The book is full of fascinating history and science of bees and beekeeping as well as following the ups and downs of Helen's beekeeping journey.

It's a truly wonderful read, beautifully written and once again it will take you away back to nature and remind you just how wonderful our planet is.


Hidden Nature: A Voyage of Discovery by Alys Fowler;
If you're a keen reader of the gardening columns in the newspapers or a listener of garden programmes on the radio you may recognise Alys Fowler's name. A very talented gardener she has a myriad of fantastic books, articles and recordings to her name but this book is something a little bit different.

Still connected to plants and nature this memoir chronicles Fowler's journey as she explores the canal system of Birmingham in her inflatable kayak whilst also coming to terms with the fact she is gay. The day adventure's she sets out onto during the dissolution of her marriage help to ground her, give her a focus and place to escape and explore. Fowler shares the fascinating history behind the canal system and the places she visits. She also shares her wonderful knowledge of flora and fauna that she find's along the towpath and natures profound effect on her life and circumstances.

It's a beautiful read and I particularly connected to the book as I spent a year living right next to the canal's in Birmingham. It was my daily walk to work, uni and often where I would escape to for a run or cycle. But even if you cannot recognise the places written about in this book it is still a wonderfully captivating read and it'll have you wishing for an inflatable kayak of your own.


The Salt Path by Raynor Winn:
This memoir was actually recommended by one of the lecturers on my MA. I had of course seen it before as it has been in many a shop window, has won all sorts of awards and was often recommended by friends and family as a good read. So, once I saw it on my lecturers to read list for the summer before my MA started I knew I had to pick up a copy.

The book follows the journey of Ray and Moth, a couple in their late fifties who, after a series of terrible events, find themselves homeless, penniless and with no idea what to do. The sensible option is to wait for a council house but instead they decide to walk the entirety of the South West Coastal Path. They camp wild, have nearly no money for food to keep themselves going and have to carry all they will need for months on the path.

It is an incredible story of pain and sorrow, chronic illness and grief but also the incredible healing power of nature. It certainly isn't a light read and at times it was quite heartbreaking but it is a beautifully written and truly thought provoking book.

I hope this has given you some reading inspiration. Let me know if you pick up any of these books or if you've read any and what you thought of them. I am loving exploring this genre and I'm sure will have many more female written memoirs to share with you soon.


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