4.24 (775 ratings by Goodreads)
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Longlisted for the Highland Book Prize, 2019

"A beautifully produced essay collection that spirals back through interests and themes traced over the past 40 years of Jamie's career, as well as forwards into an unknown future... To read a Jamie essay is to be given a fresh lens through which to view the world." Amanda Bell, Irish Times

Under the ravishing light of an Alaskan sky, objects are spilling from the thawing tundra linking a Yup'ik village to its hunter-gatherer past. In the shifting sand dunes of a Scottish shoreline, impressively preserved hearths and homes of Neolithic farmers are uncovered. In a grandmother's disordered mind, memories surface of a long-ago mining accident and a 'mither who was kind'.

In this luminous new essay collection, acclaimed author Kathleen Jamie visits archeological sites and mines her own memories - of her grandparents, of youthful travels - to explore what surfaces and what reconnects us to our past. As always she looks to the natural world for her markers and guides. Most movingly, she considers, as her father dies and her children leave home, the surfacing of an older, less tethered sense of herself.

Surfacing offers a profound sense of time passing and an antidote to all that is instant, ephemeral, unrooted.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 240 pages
  • 138 x 204 x 26mm | 379g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Main
  • 10 B&W photos
  • 1908745819
  • 9781908745811
  • 82,233

Review quote

Nature in Jamie's writing is immediate, domestic and, well, natural... a book whose impact is accretive and, eventually, astonishing. -- Alex Preston * Observer * Notes detailing chance encounters, fleeting relationships and a shared pull towards a specific world, (are) deepened with autobiographical anecdote, then shaken up with a vivid and urgent present-tense noticing that electrifies her connections and surroundings. It is as if Jamie, wherever she goes, functions as a lightning rod, drawing past, present and future together * New Statesman * Jamie's ability to look and listen, and then to communicate what she sees and hears with clarity and beauty, are the hallmarks of her very particular genius...(she) is both archivist and archaeologist, unearthing artefacts and memories, digging, as Seamus Heaney would have it, with her pen; but also scattering new fragments, like broken china, for future generations to sift through and interpret * Herald * Blazing moments light the way in Surfacing: an eyeful of eagle over a Scottish road, sockeye salmon in an Arctic stream "like silk slashes in a Tudor sleeve"...Jamie comes to things openly, listening and looking. And as she shows throughout this astonishing work, it is in looking - attuning ourselves to nature and culture, past and present - that we find our compass. -- Barbara Kiser * Nature Magazine * This is a beautiful book, and a wise one. It invites feeling and thought. -- Allan Massie * Scotsman * This is a book in which things come forth as offerings. In Surfacing, the words are not excavated, they shimmer forth... In prose that is outreaching, generous, and patient, Jamie tells it all: the wildlife and the rusting snowmobiles, the hum of humans just getting along with it. Jamie doesn't investigate, she notices. -- Abi Andrews * Caught by the River (Book of the Month) * Praise for Sightlines:
A sorceress of the essay form. Never exotic, down to earth, she renders the indefinable to the reader's ear -- John Berger Kathleen Jamie is a supreme listener ... clear, subtle, respectful, and so unquenchably curious that it makes the world anew -- Richard Mabey A book of unparalleled beauty and rare exactness of language * Sunday Telegraph * I put the book down again and thought: 'I wonder if I would actually kill to be able to write, or think, like that' -- Nicholas Lezard * Guardian * It is not often that the prose of a poet is as powerful as her verse, but Jamie's is -- Diana Athill * Literary Review * ...with language so thrilling it makes all other writing feel insipid for a while...Jamie's powers of observation have not flagged. She continues to conjure up heart stopping images...It is the little details Jamie picks up on that makes these essays so touching. * Big Issue * A beautifully produced essay collection that spirals back through interests and themes traced over the past 40 years of Jamie's career, as well as forwards into an unknown future... To read a Jamie essay is to be given a fresh lens through which to view the world -- Amanda Bell * Irish Times * Poetry has taught [Jamie] concision, lightness and attention to the sound of the human voice in its splendid ordinariness. The essays in this new volume, Surfacing, exhibit the full range of what she can do...Every page is a lesson: in how to write of the sublime without effusion; how to bring the self into the writing without narcissism...a page of Jamie's prose is enough to effect a change what she calls 'a change in the texture of [one's] attention'. The earth and sky feel larger, sadder and more beautiful. -- Nakul Krishna * The Oldie * Environmentally, Underland by Robert MacFarlane and Surfacing by Kathleen Jamie really stood out. -- Sinead Gleeson * Irish Times, Books of the Year 2019 * The best travel writing doesn't take a ham-handed look at the world, nor does it try to escape it. It's simply intended to make you feel so lost that you gaze up in surprise that you're still in your living room. For that, try the splendid SURFACING, a book of essays by the Scottish poet Kathleen Jamie. * New York Times: Top five Travel Books * Jamie's crisp language places you in a near-meditative state. Expect to hear the crunch of gravel, to squint as figures emerge on a nearly blank horizon... She leaves off in woods. And long after closing the book, you'll linger there with her too. * The New York Times * Kathleen Jamie mines her own memories - of family and of youthful travels - to see what surfaces and what connects us to our past. It's a deep and rewarding dig. As with archaeological sites, it's also layered. Having read it first in proof, I opened it again when a finished copy arrived. It repays rereading -- Michael Kerr * The Telegraph, Best Travel Books 2019 * I think Surfacing is terrific ... extremely timely and very poignant and beautifully written' -- Richard Lea * Guardian Favourite Books of the Year podcast * Like Findings and Sightlines, Surfacing is a hymn to noticing the small things that make our wretched world worth saving. -- Dani Garavelli * The Big Issue's Books of the Year *
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About Kathleen Jamie

Multi-award winning poet and essayist Kathleen Jamie (1962 - ) was born in the west of Scotland. She has written three works of non-fiction: Among Muslims (2002), an acclaimed travel narrative; Findings (2005) and Sightlines (2012), both ground-breaking collections of nature and travel writing. She lives in Fife and is a Professor of Creative Writing at Stirling University.
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Rating details

775 ratings
4.24 out of 5 stars
5 44% (340)
4 41% (314)
3 12% (95)
2 3% (20)
1 1% (6)
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