Tag Archives: Books

Stone-book and word-hoard: Robert Macfarlane returns to A Land

A Land, the unique, unclassifiable book Jacquetta Hawkes was born to write, is celebrated in the latest publication from nature writer Robert Macfarlane: LANDMARKS.


Landmarks is a word-hoard, a glossary of disappearing dialect words for British nature phenomena, a celebration of the particular and the specific (qualities to which Jacquetta was of course drawn in her own writing).  Macfarlane reflects on his own journey into nature writing and the authors who influenced him.  He describes A Land as the “stone-book” of his twenties and devotes several pages to reflections on its power and strangeness.

Macfarlane always has interesting things to say about A Land, a book he has clearly pondered over many years.  I noticed the way he discusses an interesting paradox in A Land.  Its scale is both very broad – spanning millennia, transcending ideas of nation/country/race, absurd when seen from the perspective of deepest time – and very precise.  It is recognisably a product of its particular time and place: New Elizabethan Britain: the era of the Festival of Britain, renewal after the privations of post-war austerity, the romantic modernism of Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore.  As Macfarlane notes, Jacquetta shaped the relationship of these disparate elements with aplomb and daring, zooming from her own garden to the Cretaceous and bringing all together with passion, deep knowledge and honesty.

From Aquabob to Zawn, Guardian article by Robert Macfarlane about the word-hoard in Landmarks & some (very positive) reviews of the book: Guardian, Independent, Telegraph, Times Higher Education Supplement.


More Brilliance: ES review of Her Brilliant Career

& another review of Her Brilliant Career, this time by Claire Harman in the Evening Standard.

By the way, I think this reviewer is a bit harsh about the level of achievement of these women.  In most of these professions, there weren’t three or four more famous women than the ones Rachel Cooke discusses.  As for Jacquetta, A Land was actually very well-known and successful in its day!  Though the marriage to someone as famous as Priestley (whose WW2 broadcasts certainly made him a national figure) was of course significant in raising her profile during the 1950s.


Her Brilliant Career reviewed

Reviews of great new book featuring Jacquetta Hawkes: Her Brilliant Career, by Rachel Cooke.  More to follow as I find them!

Alexandra Harris in The Guardian.

Daisy Goodwin in The Sunday Times (£)

Her Brilliant Career: ten extraordinary women

Jacquetta Hawkes joins a cavalcade of extraordinary women from the 1950s in a new book by Observer journalist Rachel Cooke: Her Brilliant Career (Virago, 31 October 2013).  Like those of rally car driver Sheila van Damm and writer Nancy Spain, Jacquetta’s professional and personal lives were far removed from those of the stereotypical Fifties homemaker.

Rachel made extensive use of the Jacquetta Hawkes Archive in her research, and we are thrilled that her book will help bring Jacquetta’s amazing story to new audiences.

Full details of the book on the Little Brown website.

Get a taste of this fascinating book via the Guardian: meet film makers Muriel and Betty Box.

Afternoon tea with Rachel Cooke, 17 October 2013 at the Manchester Literary Festival.

Picturesque Planning

Interesting blog post about the Festival of Britain by Ben Cowell of the National Trust.  He reflects on how modern planning can incorporate sense of picturesque, of the local.  Jacquetta is mentioned because of her work on the Festival and because of the powerful sense of place evoked in A Land.  The post was prompted by Harriet Atkinson’s new book The Festival of Britain: A Land and its People (IB Taurus) , which I haven’t yet seen – will report further!

“A Flamboyant History of Planet England”: A Land is back in print

In Saturday’s Guardian Review, Robert MacFarlane re-reads A Land and reflects on its continuing power and its author’s fascinating life.  MacFarlane introduces a new edition of the book, due out shortly in the Collins Natural Library, which describes it as a classic piece of British nature writing (here it is on Amazon).  While A Land is readily found in libraries and the second-hand trade, having been a huge seller in its time, its reappearance in print (and electronically!) is very exciting.  This will bring it to new audiences and encourage further discussion of its qualities.

Jacquetta and J.B.’s Rainbow Journey

This week’s entry in the 100 Objects exhibition is one of Jacquetta’s most interesting publications: Journey Down a Rainbow (1955).  In this account of a visit to New Mexico in 1954, she shared the narration with her new husband J.B. Priestley, who visited Texas.  The couple wanted to examine the impact of technology on society via the surviving prehistoric cultures of New Mexico and the growing consumer society of Texas: the fascinating results make for a highly readable and thought-provoking book.  More detail and pictures via the exhibition link above.