Book Reviews

Nemesis, My Friend: Journeys Through the Turning Times by Jay Griffiths

What Da Cover Says: This new book of essays from the author of Wild tracks the turning light of the day and seasons, an almanac of the turning times. Beginning in night and winter, it moves to dawn and spring, then noon and summer and finally evening and autumn. Set partly at the author’s home in Wales, the book journeys widely, searching for a dead father in Prague, listening to the Sky-Grandmothers of Mexican myth and staying with the people of West Papua who, when they know they will fall over laughing, lie down first. It asks: what is the real gift of the misunderstood Goddess Nemesis? Why should flowers be prescribed as medicine? What do male zebra finches dream of? Where do the sands of time run fastest, and how is that connected to the age of anxiety? It explores the dawn chorus; the tradition of sacred hospitality; dust from the time before the sun even existed; the twilight time of the trickster and the daily rituals of morning. In all of these it asks: why does light, through the hours of the day and the seasons of the year, affect us? Griffiths concludes this extraordinary collection by deciding that light is in fact how we think.

What I Says: What an extraordinary book, Griffiths has such a good voice, so easy to read and much to learn within these pages. I found myself shaking my head in disbelief, nodding along whilst chuckling and blown away by my lack of knowledge. Griffiths has split the book into four parts, it feels like it is structured around the seasons, the essay length starts off long and as the year gets to the end and the nights are drawing in the essays start to get shorter, I haven’t actually counted the pages but this is how it felt, I could almost see myself reading the last chapters sat around a fire. Each essay also has it’s focus on a particular theme or word, singing, hearth, hospitality and trickster are a few examples, having this word as a focus gives the writing a poetic feel and makes in much easier to understand what Griffiths is describing to the reader.

Favourite chapters were about the trickster, where Boris Johnston receives a dressing down, I loved at how easily Griffiths destroys him, words are powerful and Griffiths knows how to use them (Tory opposition should read this book for inspiration for the next general election). The laughter in West Papua started off with a smile and concludes with the genocide that has been going on over there for years whilst supported by the western world, I was shocked that this has been going on for so long and I’d never heard about it before, just goes to show how politicians and media spin things and only let you know what they want you to know about. Hospitality was another interesting essay, the origins of the word, how it was used in the Bible and throughout history and how it compares to today in the UK with treatment of the homeless…how to spend that council money, free shelter or bars on benches to keep the place tidy.

The essay I got the most out of was due to a conversation I had the day before reading it with a colleague at work, they love ice skating and I think it is the most boring thing you can do, going round and round in a circle trying to avoid other clumsy skaters. Griffiths has opened my eyes to “wild” ice skating, out on a lake or a frozen field, now this is what I could get into, the wind in me beard, the restrictions mostly lifted, the potential solitude and that it wouldn’t cost me 30 quid to have a go. I think I’ve been converted…just gotta hope that somehow the climate crisis will given me a chance to give this a go.

A fantastic collection that I have thoroughly enjoyed reading, something to learn in each essay. Griffiths has an original voice and one that is a joy to read.

Thanks to Little Toller Books for sending me this review copy, if you want to check it out then support the publisher by buying direct from them HERE:

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