books > surfacing

Kathleen Jamie Surfacing.jpg

256pp hardback
ISBN: 9781908745811


all books by this author


by Kathleen Jamie

Pub September 2019

“Surfacing is a book whose impact is accretive and, eventually, astonishing … it’s wonderful writing, testing the limits of nonfiction.” Alex Preston, Observer

A new and highly anticipated collection of essays from the award-winning author of Sightlines.

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.


“In Surfacing there is a poet’s economy with words, a stripped clarity…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

“In each (of her books) there’s a massing of a traveller’s scrapbook notes detailing chance encounters, fleeting relationships and a shared pull towards a specific world, that is 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 lightning rod, drawing past, present and future together.” Marina Benjamin, New Statesman

“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

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. Though often referred to as a "nature writer", she defies categorisation. What she does in her essay collections – Findings, Sightlines and now Surfacing – is to bear witness; to notice things the less keen-eyed might miss, such as a ship reflected in a train window. And hopefully make us more observant. Dani Garavelli, Herald Scotland

It is not often that the prose of a poet is as powerful as her verse, but Jamie’s is.
— Diana Athill

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