Wednesday 12 April 2023

Thin Places by Kerri ni Dochartaigh

 Thin Places by Kerri Ní Dochartaigh

This is a mixture of nature writing, memoir and history. Kerri ni Dochartaigh was born in a mixed Protestant-Catholic family in Derry in the middle of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. She lived through traumatic events such as her house being firebombed and lost friends to murder and suicide, and attempted suicide herself. This book shares her personal journey and thoughts on politics from the times of the Troubles to Brexit, which once again pushed Derry into violence. Throughout it all, she turned to nature in wild places and urban green-spaces, to find solace for herself and her brother. When she left Derry to try to make a new life for herself in various places, including Edinburgh, Bristol and rural parts of the Republic of Ireland she found herself always drawn to water.

The book contains some beautiful writing and thoughts about nature, language, culture and belonging.

As someone who is starting to learn Scottish Gaelic, I was particularly interested in her thoughts around nature and the Irish language. As a Protestant she wasn't taught Irish in school and she bemoans 'the loss of the ability to name both the landscape and the creatures we share it with in Irish. Like all Celtic languages, Irish places a great deal of importance on the natural world in its stories and legends.

It's ultimately a book of hope:

Light finds its own places, the spaces for it to take as its own. The black crow of sorrow cannot, will not, keep the light under its sooty wing forever.

I have to admit though, that her habit of circling back on ideas and thoughts, was starting to become tedious for me, much though it probably reflects her own thought processes and much though it has been praised by some reviewers. 

Thin Places by Kerri ni Dochartaigh published by Canongate.



Jeff said...

This book sounds good. I had no idea of her background in Northern Ireland. I was thinking of "Thin Places" as those places some think are closer to God or heaven or the divine. Some people make the case Iona is a "Thin Place" and while I see if as a sacred space, I never felt comfortable with the idea that one space is "thinner" than another.

Crafty Green Poet said...

Hi Jeff, yes the author does talk about thin places as those that are closer to God, but doesn't go into real detail about this aspect of things. I have also heard Iona referred to as a thin place.