This October we read Common Ground by Rob Cowen; it was different from our usual rural reads and offered a fresh perspective. Common Ground is a fusion of biopic and nature writing, expertly woven together to take the reader through a piece of land that we all have experience and knowledge of; those edge lands just outside your village, town or city.
With a move to a new town in Yorkshire, his employment in jeopardy and a baby on the way, Cowen finds solace in the outskirts of the town. This is a half-forgotten place where nature breathes, survives and thrives. Cowen takes the reader to this outer remit and casts a light. Each chapter is themed around an inhabitant of this environment, which we as a group really enjoyed and thought worked well.
Whether the chapter was discussing the hare, kestrel or owl, they were interwoven with biographical elements or (what we assumed) fictional stories that resonate with the land. I personally enjoyed the chapter about the owl, interweaving the owl’s masterful hearing with the first ultra sound of his unborn baby.
Cowen’s writing is often beautiful, his descriptions of kestrels had me moving with them. Even if you aren’t very knowledgeable about owls, hares or kestrels, Cowen’s evocative writing richly brings them alive and provides you with snippets of information.
As a group we thoroughly enjoyed Common Ground. Many of the readers found it a perfect bedtime read. It has spurred us on to read similar books in the future, but to also think about our own relationship with our ‘common ground’.
Reading Common Ground has encouraged me to walk out of Reading and into the ‘no man’s land’ that is tucked between the M4 and the town. I’ve walked through meadows I had no idea existed, I’ve come across wildlife that I wouldn’t expect to see. I also realised how unused and at times unkempt the perimeter is; but for the wildlife this is a blessing, allowing wildflowers and fungi to thrive, alongside insects, mammals and fish.
For our next meeting on Thursday 26th November we’re reading The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson.