By coincidence, I began reading this book on World Mental Health Day on 10th October. It is a day where people are encouraged to talk about their feelings and be aware that someone’s outward appearances and attitudes don’t always reflect their inside feelings. And so it is for Horatio Clare, particularly in Winter.
Now I happen to love Autumn when the nights start drawing in, the leaves change colour and it starts to get chillier. I also love winter, by which I mean proper winter, when it’s dry, cold and frosty and when I hope every year for some decent snow. I appreciate though that many people dread this dark, damp and cold time of year. I think we all recognise the difficulties of getting up on a dark winter’s morning compared with a bright summer’s day and there has to be a biological reason for this. It’s little wonder that many people don’t enjoy this dark time of year and yearn for the longer days and warmth of spring.
The author honestly admits he is one of those people who finds the winter months very difficult. He decided to face one particular winter by noting down observations throughout, looking for the beauty and light and also recording his feelings. The resulting book is a lyrical account of winter in West Yorkshire which is so beautifully written. The writing speaks to all the senses. Just read this describing the beauty of a stormy winter sky: “there was a pink Chinese silk balloon sun in a mustard sky”. Or this about a windy day: “it was as though the wind was the souls of the dead, from Shelley to machine-gunned Liverpool Pals to Leonard Cohen, ganging up like rowdies, commandeering taxis, racing through the air“. Or this describing a snowy scene: “the white deepening as you come into the Pennines is dramatic: three days’ snow humped and frozen, the trees star, darkly shocked, the roads glazed with salt and dust and slush-swish, and everything sheened with ice. The cars carry hoods of old snow and icicles.” Such evocative writing.
As well as appreciating the beauty of nature, the author gives us glimpses into his family life both in the present and when he was a child, with its joys and challenges too. His honesty at worrying he is letting his family down is touching. And the love and support of his family is clear.
A Light in the Dark is a beautifully written and courageous book. For those of us who enjoy the season, it reinforces all those things which make it so magical. For those who don’t like the dark months, it is a beacon reminding that there is always the hope and promise of Spring.
“The mercurial change in temperature now, the slightest spark of light, would fire the green fuses. The snowdrops were amazing, gorgeous white bells, fat as pearls in the moment of their perfection, hope incarnate.“
My thanks to Alison Menzies PR for sending me a review copy of the book. A Light in the Dark is published by Elliott and Thompson and available now in hardback, paperback and ebook formats. It should be available to buy or order from your usual book retailer or you will find buying links on the publisher’s website here: A Light in the Dark
From the back of the book
As November stubs out the glow of autumn and the days tighten into shorter hours, winter’s occupation begins. Preparing for winter has its own rhythms, as old as our exchanges with the land. Of all the seasons, it draws us together. But winter can be tough.
It is a time of introspection, of looking inwards. Seasonal sadness; winter blues; depression – such feelings are widespread in the darker months. But by looking outwards, by being in and observing nature, we can appreciate its rhythms. Mountains make sense in any weather. The voices of a wood always speak consolation. A brush of frost; subtle colours; days as bright as a magpie’s cackle. We can learn to see and celebrate winter in all its shadows and lights.
In this moving and lyrical evocation of a British winter and the feelings it inspires, Horatio Clare raises a torch against the darkness, illuminating the blackest corners of the season, and delving into memory and myth to explore the powerful hold that winter has on us. By learning to see, we can find the magic, the light that burns bright at the heart of winter: spring will come again.
About the author
Horatio Clare is a critically acclaimed author and journalist. His first book, Running for the Hills: A Family Story, won the Somerset Maugham Award. His second book, Truant is ‘a stunningly-written memoir’, according to the Irish Times. A Single Swallow: Following an Epic Journey from South Africa to South Wales, was shortlisted for the Dolman Travel Book of the Year; Down to the Sea in Ships: Of Ageless Oceans and Modern Men won the Stanford-Dolman Travel Book of the Year 2015. Horatio’s first book for children, Aubrey and the Terrible Yoot, won the Branford Boase Award 2016 for best debut children’s book. He lives in West Yorkshire.