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Book Review: Fingers in the Sparkle Jar by Chris Packham

 

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Packham, C. (2016) Fingers in the Sparkle Jar Ebury Press ISBN976 1 785 03348 3

Chris Packham is a naturalist, nature photographer and author, best known for his television work, in this lyrical and raw memoir, he reveals the life-events that shaped him.

A 1970s childhood. A bedroom of birds’ eggs and jam jars. Feral adventures and a search for freedom, meaning and acceptance in a world that didn’t understand him.

This is memoire told by the ice-cream man, the next-door neighbours, the teacher, his peers, and later the therapist. It maps Packham’s obsessive interest in every aspect of the natural world, both alive, and dead. Dinosaurs, rats, otters all play a part.

‘Fingers in the Sparkle Jar’ is an often brutal, often beautiful book that subverts the memoir genre through third person accounts of events and a timeline that flits around his seminal Summer of the Kestrel.

The book is a collection of exquisitely framed moments, that range from the hauntingly beautiful to the wretchedly sad. Raw, visceral, glorious, hallucinogenic ‘Fingers in the Sparkle Jar’ is unique, startling, bewildering, frustrating and yet it’s a memoire that lingers long after reading.

The descriptive language, at time indulgently opulent, but also vivid and enchanting can confuse, yet somehow always succeeds in capturing a bright, introspective, awkward, painfully self-aware child and teenager, who despite his facility with words, failed to communicate meaningfully with the human world around him.

Stark, honest, sad, humorous, complex, it’s unlike any other autobiography I’ve read.

Highly recommended.

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