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I Can Hear the Cuckoo: Life in the Wilds of Wales

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When I started reading it, I found it quite hard - not because the writing was bad, but because the words were trying to tap into something in me that I had suppressed - a connection to a palate of emotions that, largely because of my focus on work, that I had learned to ignore. I was irritated by the endless tautological paragraphs which I would have expected an editor to expunge. She chooses fresh air, an auditorium of silence and the purity of the natural world – and soon arrives in Cellan, a small, remote village nestled in the Welsh valleys.

are tantamount to a country person writing a book about moving to London and being awestruck by the public transport network and the number of restaurants available. But as the months wear on, Kiran starts to connect with the close-knit community she finds there; her neighbour Sarah, who shows her how to sledge when the winter snow arrives; Jane, a 70-year-old woman who lives at the top of a mountain with three dogs and four alpacas; and Wilf, the farmer who eats the same supper every day, and teaches Kiran that the cuckoo arrives in April and leaves in July. Kiran has written so movingly about her experiences, in which she takes the reader on the journey of both joy and heartache. Sidhu has the blessing and the talent to reveal others to themselves, all while exploring her personal evolution. Anyway, I don’t normally read bereavement memoirs, which is what I think this would be counted as, as I was more attracted by the subtitle, “Life in the Wilds of Wales” and the author’s name, which indicated some kind of South Asian heritage.I was expecting this book would be more about the author learning to deal with her grief over the death of her mother, and whilst she of course does touch on that, the book is really about a fish out of water learning basic countryside facts, which I didn’t find particularly interesting.

Having moved first to rural west Wales and then to a small town in Powys, it’d be interesting to compare the experiences of relocating – though of course there’s evidently more to this book than just moving house. It's about grief, finding beauty in nature, creating a meaningful life through appreciation and joy in the simple things in life and the company of good people.Fleeing their city life in London, they adapt to what they at first think is quiet and isolation, but they soon find they can hear all the sounds of nature and see their neighbours across the fields, knowing their routines as well as their own.

And so we get lovely descriptions of the Welsh countryside, the lovely Welsh people, lovely Welsh kindness, the lovely Welsh animals, the lovely Welsh seasons (do you see a pattern here? I also didn’t notice it was one of those NetGalley books that’s only available through the Shelf app, which makes for a less smooth reading experience: more on that later. I am so happy to know Kiran received such a wonderful welcome and found a sense of peace in the Welsh Valleys, the home of my own forebears. After reading this memoir, do watch Heart Valley, an award-winning short documentary on the life of Wilf Davies, a 73-year-old farmer who eats the same food for more than 10 years and has never left country life for city life in his lifetime. All this aside, Sidhu finds solace in a slower pace of life, adapting to rhythms of life defined by sheep farming, the weather, the light and being accepted by another sort of family, a community who accept and embrace her.The best parts of the book, for me, was the description of the individuals and community in a very small hamlet and the impact of the seasons. This book offers a gentle reminder of the true meaning of life and our place in the natural world around us. Her descriptions of the change in herself, enjoying nature and things that she never would have previously before her mother passed away, of the process of "living" again, rang powerful and true. I don’t succeed in reading the books/magazines/newspapers on the tablet, I prefer the old dear paper and, moreover, I prefer to not read books where sad animal stuff happens. but she quickly discovers a sense of belonging in the small, close-knit community she finds there; her neighbour Sarah, who teaches her how to sledge when the winter snow arrives; Jane, a 70-year-old woman who lives at the top of a mountain with three dogs and four alpacas with an inspiring attitude for life; and Wilf, the farmer who eats the same supper every day, and taught Kiran that the cuckoo arrives in April and leaves in July.

She also takes us through the seasons with her, so there's always something new to look forward to and you really get the sense that her eyes were really opened as to what life should be about.

It felt as if this was used as padding and could have been easily replaced by a deeper drilling down into her experiences of not only being an outsider but a woman of Indian descent in an otherwise white monoculture. I have always believed ‘memoir’ as a genre is a tough nut to crack; it is because you have to tell your real-life (boring) story in an immersive tone and pace to keep your readers engaged - not an easy task by any means. Meeting the locals also proved to be a big help in her 'healing' especially Wilf, who lived the simplest of lives and was more than content with his lot. Kiran lived in London and she recounts the horrific experience of losing her Mum to whom she was very close.

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