Fingers in the Sparkle Jar

Fingers in the Sparkle Jar: A Memoir by Chris Packham

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This is a book unlike any I’ve ever read.

Chris Packham is a fantastic British naturalist and TV presenter. I first saw him as a child when he presented children’s wildlife programme The Really Wild Show and have enjoyed much of his work since then, including his current role at the helm of the wonderful Springwatch. I even met him when I was about 11 and won a short story competition. But there’s more to the man than meets the eye as this book describes.

This isn’t an autobiography, it’s a memoir. It doesn’t share his life story, just some of the more memorable moments from Packham’s childhood and teenage years. It reads almost like a novel and Packham even refers to himself from the third person and looks at himself through the eyes of other people. It has an interesting structure which darts around the place. At the end of each ‘chapter’ there is is a few pages describing therapy sessions that Packham went to as an adult shortly after trying to commit suicide. These tie together the text and give it a deeper meaning.

The style of writing is remarkable. Rarely does prose feel so poetical. Packham manages to describe all sorts of things in this style. There’s obviously lots of wildlife descriptions and these are beautiful. There was a really clear picture in my head of all these scenes. But even other scenes are well described, from the family dynamic to a film poster to Packham’s school peers.

I did find a few problems with the book though. Whilst I sort-of liked that the structure was nonlinear each section was so short it did become a little overwhelming constantly switching- I would have prefered longer sections within the structure. And again whilst I liked the switching viewpoint thing I found that a little confusing at times as you end up trying to work out where Packham actually is in the text.

Overall though this was a unique, remarkable read that I really related to. Rarely does a book make you feel like you know the author personally by the end but this one really does.

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