Fingers in the Sparkle Jar: A Memoir by Chris Packham

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Fingers in the Sparkle Jar: A Memoir by Chris Packham

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Buy Fingers in the Sparkle Jar: A Memoir by Chris Packham at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Autobiography
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Louise Jones
Reviewed by Louise Jones
Summary: A young boy is viewed as an outsider by his neighbours, but finds solace in his love of the natural world.
Buy? yes Borrow? yes
Pages: 384 Date: April 2017
Publisher: Ebury Press
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781785033506

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Everything seemed alive in that scintillating moment and as the gleams gyrated and glittered I imagined I could see their tiny twinkling hearts, seeding the sparks that made them so very vivid. And then I wiped away the spilled slop of the river, polished the glare and thrust my fingers into the sparkle jar to stir the soft tickles of the swirling tinsel of fishes.

Fingers in the Sparkle Jar is a unique memoir, written in a distinct style quite unlike any other. Chris Packham, well-known TV presenter and wildlife expert, takes us back to his childhood in 1960s Southampton, and we meet a curious child who doesn't quite fit in to the societal norm. Fast forward a few years, and the chasm widens, leading to bullying, name-calling and beatings at the hands of the local thugs at his comprehensive school.

As an adult, Chris was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, which may explain his social awkwardness as a child and intense obsession with nature; an obsession that he managed to forge into a successful career. When other children were playing together in the street, young Chris was out collecting bugs in jars, birds eggs, wings, pellets and other specimens for his curious collection. He was also fascinated by dinosaurs and amassed an incredible amount of knowledge about his favourite subject.

The book veers away from the style of the traditional celebrity autobiography by telling the story from a number of perspectives. Sometimes the story is told in the straightforward, first-person style that would be expected. At other times, we see the boy through the eyes of others: a neighbour, a teacher, a farmer, or a pet shop owner. Thus we begin to build a picture of the personality of the boy and how he is viewed by those around him. Interestingly, some chapters revisit the same events through different perspectives; we see it through the eyes of an outsider and then get Chris' version of events. His writing is poetic, lyrical and beautiful, even when writing about commonplace events such as an encounter with the local ice-cream man.

Don't be fooled into thinking that this is a sweet story about a boy's idyllic childhood exploring nature, though. Much of the material is hard hitting and raw. Encounters with nature are often described with brutal honesty and can be graphic and upsetting. In one story, that weaves its way through the book, teenage Chris steals a baby kestrel from its nest, setting off a chain of events that scars him mentally and causes him to contemplate suicide.

Fingers in the Sparkle Jar is an absorbing read that completely draws the reader in. Sadly, some of the material is unsuitable for younger readers (sexual content and strong language), which is a shame, as an edited version of this book would be perfect for studying in schools to help encourage tolerance and understanding toward those on the autistic spectrum. Many thanks to the publishers for my review copy.

Bookbag also enjoyed A Sting in the Tale by Dave Goulson which will appeal to anyone with a passion for wildlife.

Buy Fingers in the Sparkle Jar: A Memoir by Chris Packham at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Fingers in the Sparkle Jar: A Memoir by Chris Packham at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Fingers in the Sparkle Jar: A Memoir by Chris Packham at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Fingers in the Sparkle Jar: A Memoir by Chris Packham at Amazon.com.

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