Outskirts by John Grindrod
|Outskirts by John Grindrod|
|Category: Animals and Wildlife|
|Reviewer: Kate Jones|
|Summary: An interesting and unique look at a common part of the British landscape, bound up in an endearing family memoir.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 368||Date: June 2017|
|External links: Author's website|
Outskirts is an interesting take on a phenomenon of the modern age: the introduction of the green belt of countryside surrounding inner city housing estates. John Grindrod grew up on the edge of one such estate in the 1960's and '70's, as he puts it, I grew up on the last road in London. Grindrod explores the introduction of the green belt, and the various fights and developments it has gone through over the subsequent decades, as environmental and political arguments have affected planning decisions. Within this topic, he has somehow managed to wind around his personal memories of childhood, producing a memoir with a lot of heart.
Grindrod tells us What I miss is that strange sensation of the collision of both: living on the edge of somewhere, where the town stops and the country begins, and you really get the feeling that he does genuinely miss his family life, despite being an awkward and often lonely child. Losing himself in his own imaginary games in the woods across the street gave him a place to explore being himself. The relationship with his mother, and the way he portrays her as a strong, wheelchair bound woman, raising three sons on their suburban council estate in New Addington, is particularly strong. His two brothers interject parts of the prose at times, and there is a real sense of the kind of working class family that embodies the era. A poignant part for me is the portrayal the author gives of the illness and death of his parents. This image of the three brothers, caring for their father at home, is very real and moving.
The trouble I had with the book was that I felt bogged down with the environmental history at times. It felt a little like there could have been two books here, rather than one; a history of the green belt, and a personal memoir. I was hoping for more of a 'nature memoir', and this felt a bit more about environmental politics. That said, it may be that other readers will enjoy the segments dealing with both, and it is clear that Grindrod has put a lot of thought into joining them together.
If you enjoyed this, you might like Come on Shore and We Will Kill and Eat You All by Christina Thompson.
You can read more book reviews or buy Outskirts by John Grindrod at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy Outskirts by John Grindrod at Amazon.com.
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