There are some books that I want to tell everyone to read immediately, yet, at the same time, I want to keep all to myself.
This is one of those books.
I met the author for the first time at the Felixstowe Book Festival where she was speaking a couple of weeks ahead of the book's publication date. Only the interviewer had read the book and we were all intrigued by what we heard in the on-stage conversation.
A couple of days later I received my copy and I couldn't wait to dive into it. It looked beautiful with its clean, white cover and striking but simple illustration and I could still hear the author's voice as I opened the pages and began to read.
And then I couldn't put it down. It was as if I was reading a letter, I suppose, written just to me.
Catrina Davies was trying to live in Bristol. She was renting a box room in a shared house for £400 a month and she was struggling to raise the money from her jobs teaching the cello and writing and playing music. Hating what her life had become, she looked at other options. There weren't many. The housing crisis in this country has left few choices for the young and poorly paid. She remembered an abandoned shed in Cornwall where her father had once run his business. She packed her bags and drove to the area where she was raised, discovered the shed was still standing and promptly made it a home. As best she could. There was no water or electricity, mice and rats were an issue, and she wasn't legally supposed to be there.
Her story tells of the experience, admittedly in rather a romantic way. I didn't feel the cold or the hardship. Instead, being so close to nature seemed liberating and desirable.
There was only one aspect of the book I didn't enjoy - the mention of Amazon!
Catrina felt that the shed had become home when the postman delivered a letter to her. At that point she realised she could order books from Amazon and this was her measure of feeling settled into the community. Well, yes, lovely to be able to receive things in the post, I can relate to that. But there are other internet suppliers, and ones who have more integrity, pay their taxes, look after their staff etc. Her support of this company seemed to conflict with her other views on society and business today.
I also didn't like the advice she was given on taking up a gardening job. She knew nothing about gardening, she said, but was given tips on how she could manipulate the role for her benefit, assuming that her employer, the holiday home owner wouldn't be any the wiser, nor would they really care. And she also used her employer's shower without asking.
The conclusion of the book was also rather disappointing. She revealed that in fact she wasn't penniless as she had been inferring. Early in the days of living in the shed, she had been burgled. This had been a terrible knockback, but her sister had launched a crowdfunding page, inviting people to help Catrina pay to replace the stolen items. And in the final pages of the book, Catrina revealed that this had raised a significant amount. I felt that I had been misled in the intervening pages. Yet, it's encouraging that a community, in this case an internet community rather than a local community, had rallied round to support someone who had fallen on difficult times. And Catrina had chosen to continue to live in the shed and indeed still does.
So these were minor disappointments in an otherwise wonderful book.
There was something truly extraordinary about the book - the message, the story, the writing. I loved it.
And I immediately picked up her other book 'Ribbons for the Fearlessness' which was also quite amazing. I can't wait to see what she writes next.