The Company of Swans by Jim Crumley
Published by Harvill Secker, 2017 (first published in 1997)
My rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Reading this lovely little offering was proof that it’s worth browsing displays in bookshops every now and then, and taking a punt on something that catches your eye. Nature writer, Jim Crumley, observed the same pair of mute swans in rural Scotland for more than two decades, growing a particular attachment to the gentle pen. In this slim book, he offers us a snapshot of the creatures’ ethereal beauty, as well as the many hardships they face in an effort to fend off predators, survive the changing seasons, and raise their young. More so, he has crafted a surprisingly moving tribute to the pen, who is presented as both emblematic of her species and its place within the cycle of life, and yet, singular in her tragic determination to defy the odds.
With his prose, Crumley paints vivid pictures of the landscape he so obviously admires. His lyrical approach brings an air of quiet magic that suits the majesty of his subject matter perfectly. My middling rating is reflective of the book’s brevity, rather than its quality, and I will certainly be checking out more of Crumley’s work.
You can pick up a copy of The Company of Swans from Book Depository by clicking here.
Daughters of Passion by Julia O’Faolain
Published by Faber & Faber, 2019
My rating: ⭐ ⭐
I should preface this review by saying Daughters of Passion was one of my most anticipated reads from the Faber Stories range. It’s very possible my high expectations contributed to my lukewarm response. The premise is fantastic: A young Irish woman languishes in prison, delirious from a self-imposed hunger strike. As reality begins to blur, she reflects on a friendship that led to her involvement with the IRA, and the criminal act that put her behind bars.
Perhaps because I love this setup so much, I wish it had been a full-length novel, rather than a short story. Whatever the case, I felt it lacked an emotional core. Interesting themes and brief flashes of brilliance in the prose are given no time to take root; the friendship so pivotal to the narrative feeling too lightly drawn to provide satisfying development or lasting impact.
You can pick up a copy of Daughters of Passion from Book Depository by clicking here.