Matt Gaw‘s first book, The Pull of the River, was described as “excellent” by the Times Literary Supplement and yet I have to admit that I am yet to read it. However, having just finished his second – Under the Stars – I have written myself a note to buy a copy.
You know you have read a good piece of nature writing or a piece about the outdoors when it inspires you to action. In this case Matt Gaw has been successful in exciting me about the world of darkness and willing me to step out and widen my experience of place. As I write this review the light is dropping outside, transforming the environment and altering the experience for anyone who ventures out.
The premise of the book is simple – an exploration of the outdoors at night time. Matt visits various parts of the UK; from Scotland to London, Dartmoor to his own home county of Suffolk and describes his experiences. The lyrical nature of the prose must be applauded. Matt manages to illustrate his experiences well through his choice of words, without being pretentious, which is always a risk with these kinds of books.
”The blackness, oily and thick, has been magnified by the heavy cloche of clouds. Yet the darkness never holds for long”
”There, the eyes of the Sea of Showers and the Sea of Serenity, there, the nose of Seething Bay and there, the open mouthed surprise of the Sea of Cliuds and the Sea of Knowledge.”
For anybody who has walked any of the stretches that Matt visits, they will be reminded of their sense of place and where they were at the time; whether that be walking by the light of the moon in Suffolk or maneuvering through darkest Dartmoor. Some of my favourite parts of the book were from his experiences of where humans have altered the experience of light and dark, such as his adventures in central London.
More than anything this book is a timely reminder that we need to reconnect and remind ourselves of the power and joy of the night sky.
Matt Gaw’s ‘Under the Stars‘ was published by Elliott & Thompson on 20th February 2020 and is now available to buy at all good bookshops.
Watch out for the supermoon on 9th March 2020!
Many thanks to Alison Menzies and Elliott & Thompson for sending me a review copy of the book.