Discussion: The Frayed Atlantic Edge; a Historian’s Journey from Shetland to the Channel by David Gange (2019)

The Reviews fell into groups.

Peter, Ruth, Tracey and Chantal all rated it 8 or 9 out of 10. All were members of the Canoe Club and all had their own reasons for liking it, having travelled &/or paddled in some of the locations described, and interests in landscape & jurisdictional history and islands. All liked the chapters on the Northern Isles, Torridon, the Hebrides and Ireland. Tracey particularly praised the section on mapping the Connemara coasts.  When reading the Book, Chantal was reminded of much of the Irish and island music she had recently listened to at the Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow.  

Ruth wondered whether the Book was overlong, as the sections on Wales and Cornwall appeared relatively thin. Peter agreed. The Book would have done better to stop at its high tide mark, the Irish Chapters. Instead a second volume could have been written, including as well as Wales and Cornwall, the Channel Islands and Brittany.

In connection with such an extension, the Book is significantly concerned with minority languages and dialects. Chantal explained that she attended a weekly coffee morning in St Ouen for Jèrrais speakers, the regularity of which meant it remains a living language. Chantal’s first language had been French, her father’s and grandparents’ Breton and her mother’s, from the NE of Cote d’Amor, a dialect similar to Jèrrais. Her husband, Nick’s family was Welsh speaking.

By contrast with the group who liked the Book, Leonard rated it only 2 out of 10. One of his criticisms, gelling with the suggestion the Book was overlong, was that it would have benefited from better editing. He also thought it reflected too much left-wing ideology. Peter responded that this was a common fault of many modern academics. When reading their publications, he found himself skipping over much of the politically correct. Nonetheless, the case made here was clear that urban centred land states wrote the history books and ultimately dominated the more remote, rural and culturally different fringes, whose world looked out as much as in. For the last, see  “Facing the Ocean” by Barry Cunliffe.

 Leonard also didn’t like the number of words he didn’t know and had to look up.  Peter thought whether or not this put you off reading the Book, depended on your attitude to it generally. He liked and was interested by the “Atlantic Edge”, and therefore was happy to learn words he didn’t know but had disliked the numerous undefined American medical terms in “Modern Death”, which he had no wish to learn.

Sarah rated the “Atlantic Edge” 6 out of 10, finding herself between the group who liked it and Leonard, who didn’t. She had some of the closest family ties to sea padding, but nonetheless found the Book hard going, too literary and too poetic?

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