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Sightlines

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  1,273 ratings  ·  178 reviews
The outer world flew open like a door, and I wondered—what is it that we're just not seeing? In this greatly anticipated sequel to Findings, prize-winning poet and renowned nature writer Kathleen Jamie takes a fresh look at her native Scottish landscapes, before sailing north into iceberg-strewn seas. Her gaze swoops vertiginously too; from a countryside of cells beneath a ...more
Paperback, 242 pages
Published April 5th 2012 by Sort Of Books
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Average rating 4.26  · 
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 ·  1,273 ratings  ·  178 reviews


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Bridget Weller
This is a delicate and beautiful book. The cover calls it essays, but that suggests a kind of formality that would be out of place. The rigour here is of a much more reflective and questioning kind. Its creative non-fiction, to incisive for a namby-pamby word like "reflection", too poetic and beautifully written for "reportage", but a long way from short story territory. Whatever it is, its lovely.

The only problem with the above is that it probably means people are less likely to pick it up off
...more
Jason
Apr 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2015
Wonderful writing, never have I been as jealous of an author as I am right now, the things Kathleen Jamie has done and the places she has been as part of the research for this book is stunning. Visiting remote abandoned islands in the Hebrides, St Kilda and Rona, to sitting inside a whale skeleton in a museum giving it a clean, that must have been an amazing experience. It wasn't all fun and games though, at times she suffers big time with seasickness that she must be wondering why she is puttin ...more
Penny
Jan 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nature
A beautiful writer. I honestly think Jamie could write about a visit to the dentist and make it sound lyrical. To call these chapters 'essays' seems wrong, they are more like meditations on a variety of subjects, mainly the natural world.
I love the way her mind works. She sees something and it triggers a response - and although she is in many ways a gentle writer she is also sharp and eagle eyed. How many people would even attempt to describe the aurora borealis?
She's never overly fanciful or fl
...more
Hugh
Jan 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A luminously reflective book, which brings together some fairly disparate subject matter into a unified whole. Jamie recounts a variety of experiences - an archaeological dig, various trips to remote Scottish islands such as St Kilda and Rona, a visit to a pathology department and an extraordinary section on the Hvalsalen (whale hall) of Bergen museum. She finds startlingly new and perceptive observations on all of these. A memorable and deeply rewarding read.
Anna
Jun 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Anna by: Bridget
I enjoyed 'Sightlines' more than Findings. The writing is equally beautiful and lyrical in both, but this collection is longer, feels more cohesive, and includes more archaeology. Somehow it connected for me on an emotional level more than the first collection, which is a reflection both on the content and my mood while reading each book, I suspect. The essays in 'Sightlines' discourse upon seabirds, remote Hebridean islands, orcas, and the excavation of an ancient burial site, among other topic ...more
Paul
Sep 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing


As with all books that are written by poets, this is a delight to read. The language is eloquent and lyrical, without being pretentious.

She takes us, through a series of essays, on a journey to places in the far north of the UK and Scandinavia. To islands and museums and more importantly to the part of the mind that communicates with nature.

Well worth reading. Shall be reading some of her other books
Robyn
Mar 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
3.5 stars rounding up to 4, because it's not Jamie's fault that I'm not her ideal audience. I think this has lovely bits in it - some gorgeous writing, and the two longest essays (one on whales and a collection of whale bones in a Norwegian museum, the other on St. Kilda) are stand-out. However, I usually look to essay collections like this to teach me new things, and her topics are fairly well-trod ones for me. I did enjoy the memories her essays provoked, especially of my own encounters with w ...more
Preeti
I’ll be honest. The first thing that attracted me to this book when I saw it on NetGalley was the cover. It’s a close up of a whale’s (not sure which kind) eye – it’s like it was made for me! Actually, it looks like Bryant Austin’s work, which is absolutely amazing and should be checked out. (Whoa, just researched and found that the cover image is, in fact, a photo by Austin!)

Sightlines is a book of essays about the natural world – at least, it bills itself as such. There were a few in there tha
...more
Claire
Jan 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
The second volume of essays by Kathleen Jamie that I've read, more encounters with birds on lonely, wind-windswept islands that have long been abandoned by humans, though traces remain of their earlier occupation.

In her trademark poetic style, she travels with experts from whom she gleans bits of information, fascinating trivia, or alarming statistics that tell of a significant drop in population of certain species, but mostly she continues her mission of acute observation, of trying to see in t
...more
Alasdair Pettinger
Apr 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
For those who worry about what kind of book this is, Bridget Weller's review nails it very well.

I'm happy to think of it as travel writing, which for me must always proceed from - and bear strong traces of - an experience lived at a particular place and time. And Jamie's attention is so focused that we get travel writing in almost its purest form, where narrative and abstract generalization are entirely subordinate to the work of engaging all the senses with its descriptions and recollections.
...more
Sophy H
Feb 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: outdoor-nature
Very poetic and descriptive nature writing.

Kathleen Jamie is able to capture the wilderness with the right amount of awe, enthusiasm and pragmatism.

My only criticism is the amount of spelling/editing mistakes, they were a little distracting.
Andrew Cox
Jan 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely beautiful. I have now read both of Kathleen Jamie's books which were just a joy. I don't always find poetry easy but I think I better have a look at her poems. It's not easy to say why something is so good. Jamie invites the reader to look at the world afresh. Although there is absolutely nothing to suggest she is preachy somehow she reminds me of a deep spirituality, maybe Buddhist, although if it is Buddhist it is "natural" , understated but deeply significant. She looks at both the ...more
Bettie
Apr 20, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Brazilliant et al
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Marsali Taylor
Apr 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: modern-novels
I really enjoyed this one, but I felt it wasn't quite as good as the previous one, Findings, which held me spellbound through a long delay in Edinburgh airport. I took this one to keep me occupied during another long journey, and it did transport me just as 'Findings' did - I now want to see the Hvalsalen in Bergen, and feel as though I've seen Rona and St Kilda. However 'Findings' felt like more of a unity, like a long meditation - 'Sightlines' didn't give me that sense, and there were places w ...more
Kenny
Oct 12, 2016 rated it liked it
I made a mistake in this. I read it straight through. It's easy reading, and you slip into the beat of the writing. After a realisation a couple of essays in that they were only loosely linked on the nature/far north/human themes, they could be read in any order, and with long gaps between them. I particularly enjoyed the longer essays - St.Kilda and the whale jawbones were both interesting subject matter, and beautifully written. The oncology essay is also memorable and thought provoking (but s ...more
Nancy
Jan 29, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2020
Finished: 03.11.201
Genre:
Rating: C -
Conclusion:
I agree with one other reviewer
...the first essay was stunning
but the rest of the book couldn't match up.

Lyrical written birds, bacteria, islands, whale bones
wind, caves and an archeological dig that seemed
endless.....and I longed only for more reflection.
Sightlines is a dialogue with nature and the
conversation flowed around a score of topics
..but I had difficulty staying awake and listening.
...more
Fiona
Aug 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
Reading Kathleen Jamie is such a gentle, meditative, educational and joyful experience. Her writing has the same effect on me as listening to Dinah Washington does - take a deep breath, relax, and feel the worries of the day disappear.
Nicola
Jul 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant. Such an enchanting read.
Jennifer
Mar 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Sometimes I read books that demand to be savoured, taken time over. And I rarely listen. But for Kathleen Jamie, I did. It was a real joy to spend time fossicking about various subjects with her. She doesn't weigh her writing down with an excess of research nor purple prose nor even passion, but her words are beautiful and interesting. I found her geographical sense of self an invaluable corrective - she is most certainly Scottish. She combines inspirational experiences with the prosaic (moon-wa ...more
Ashley
May 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
Enchanted as I was by Scottish poet and natural world writer Kathleen Jamie's Findings, reading Sightlines was a no brainer. I love Jamie's wry, hyper-observant writing, her ability to capture themes as large as existence itself by pondering a whale bone or a bird. Highly recommended. ...more
Parvathy
Apr 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Gorgeous, gorgeous writing. In a series of what could be called essays, Kathleen Jamie describes remote islands in Scotland, its cliffs and birds and sea, whale sightings, a museum of whale bones in Bergen, a trip to the Arctic and the Aurora Borealis, a lunar eclipse and so on. Her acute observation, sense of wonder and sheer joy infuse each of these. Loved it!
Tineke
Sep 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Even better than "Findings"! ...more
Richard Barry
Apr 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Excellent; Jamie’s attention to detail coupled with her musings on the wider world are illuminating.
Peter
Jan 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Quiet but powerful essays. Nature writing, but as in a lot (all?) of good nature writing, the idea that there exists, separately from us, nature, is very much put into question. Most explicitly in "Pathologies," in which, struck by the contrast between a sentimental idea of "getting back to nature" and "letting nature take its course" in the case of a terminally ill parent, Jamie decides to look for nature in a pathologist's lab, and describes the landscape, seen through a microscope, on a cance ...more
Ken
Oct 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing


As Nicholas Lezard of The Guardian wrote, 'I put the book down again and thought: 'I wonder if I would actually kill to be able to write, or think, like that.' It's like this pretty much all the way through.'

For example, writing about a long ago abandoned village on the remote island of Rona, she writes:

All those acres of undulating fields, built up by hand of the scant
earth and seaweed. Outwith the enclosing dyke lay the rest of the island, which the
people must have known down to every blade
...more
Angela
Aug 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Devoured this book in small chunks so that it would last longer. Loved Kathleen Jamie's way of seeing and looking at the world. Her language is subtle, informative, poetic and draws you in completely. She created a real sense of being right there with her that I almost forgot I hadn't really experienced these things - just read them! The chapters vary in length and though I read it from start to finish, you really could start anywhere you fancied. Whales, jawbones, uninhabited isolated islands, ...more
James Robertson
Apr 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Kathleen Jamie is a fine poet and an excellent essayist. These essays record her close engagement with the environment and nature, and her constant questioning of the relationship human beings have with birds, whales, the sea, the land and the weather. They take her to remote, sparsely inhabited (or sometimes abandoned)islands and regions, where her questions come into the sharpest focus: because of course such places are inhabited, only not by humans. A book to make you think, quietly.
Sarah
Oct 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: naturalist, library
Read this in the right place - a log cabin miles from Roy Bridge, which is miles from anywhere, with a log burning stove and dogs to walk. Borrowed it from the library for holiday reading and will probably have to buy myself a copy although the writing is so sharp that I can almost imagine I know some of the pieces by heart. Every page is interesting and both brings something new and joins it to my own experience.
Wendy Capron
Oct 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Beautifully written - would have been good to read aloud or, even better, have it read to me. I especially liked the essay on St. Kilda (I want to build a cleit!) But the essay, "On Rona" was exciting and how much fun to feel all the Leach's fork-tailed petrels coming in at night! And all of her talk about whales seems especially relevant with the recent deaths of so many North Atlantic right whales - 16 so far. ...more
Patricia
Feb 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"Because of the earthfast notion that time is deep, that memories are buried, the Neolithic and Bronze Age artefacts occupy the windowless basement level of the National Museum." I love the lyric "earthfast" even more for being followed up by the humor of how the sentence ends. I rationed these essays out over several Sundays and was sorry to finish. ...more
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Kathleen Jamie is a poet, essayist and travel writer, one of a remarkable clutch of Scottish writers picked out in 1994 as the ‘new generation poets’ – it was a marketing ploy at the time but turns out to have been a very prescient selection. She became Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Stirling in 2011.

http://www.scottishpoetrylibrary.org....
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“There was a time—until very recently in the scheme of things—when there were no wild animals, because every animal was wild; and humans were few. Animals, and animal presence over us and around us. Over every horizon, animals. Their skins clothing our skins, their fats in our lamps, their bladders to carry water, meat when we could get it.” 9 likes
“We know we are a species obsessed with itself and its own past and origins. We know we are capable of removing from the sanctuary of the earth shards and fragments, and gently placing them in museums. Great museums in great cities—the hallmarks of civilisation.” 5 likes
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