I have read Karen Lloyd’s latest work over the last few days, so this is effectively a book review. But I’ve also been on writing workshops Karen led over the last twelve months. So it’s difficult to be objective. Also I’ve heard extracts and the arguments being made at online events so I wasn’t coming to it fresh. A bit like reading the book after seeing the film if you like.
I have read Karen’s other books – The Gathering Tide: A Journey Around The Edgelands of Morecambe Bay and The Blackbird Diaries, and did so before I secured a place on the Litfest Nature Writing Group last spring. I enjoyed them both, partly because they covered the Morecambe Bay area and partly because of the mixture of rigour and good nature writing.
Abundance is a series of essays exploring abundance and loss. Karen is a passionate environmentalist concerned about the impact of the Anthropocene, the period in which mankind’s actions have had an increasing impact on the natural world. One of her key themes is that we aren’t seeing properly, and don’t therefore prioritise appropriately.
The fourteen essays whilst based on the central theme are also self-contained, and as such it is a work that can be read in several sittings. The style is generally fairly consistent, although the essay ‘Eighty Fragments on the Pelican’ as the name might suggest is a fragmented essay with four score observations on or arising from viewing pelicans in Greece.
In workshops with Karen there were often interesting different viewpoints about where a piece of work should start, usually with a re-jig of order suggested. Personally I wouldn’t have started where this starts (a Willow Warbler inside a house), and I would have finished with the penultimate essay which I felt had a stronger conclusion than the one actually last.
I have been frustrated by several books I have read recently containing a number of proofing errors, and I am pleased to say this one did not have that issue. I did have reason to check though as the word ‘jounce’ was used, meaning to bounce. I have to say as a plain speaking Northerner that bounce would have done just as well…
There is some excellent, thought-provoking writing in this collection. I particularly enjoyed the essay ‘The Bear, the Taxi Driver and the Custard Cream’. As well as a suitably intriguing title this, the longest piece, is a fascinating insight into the bears of Romania and the people literally putting their lives on the line to protect them. Like any good nature writing by my benchmarks it tells me things I didn’t know, makes me want to see it for myself and asks searching questions about our relationship with nature and wildlife.