Jini Reddy wants to discover or commune with the wild. She introduces Wanderland with some of her past experiences and her ideas for the future. An important aspect of this for her is being Other. She was born in the UK of Indian parents who had moved from South Africa because of apartheid. She then spent her childhood in Canada before returning to the UK. Other is something that resonates with her but can she find places to be Other and delve more into the magical and mystical? This book follows her quest to a number of places. Some are quite obvious locations such as Glastonbury and Lindisfarne. Some were – to me – unknown and possibly more interesting.
Personally I found the story of her early life engaging. The writing is good and there is a lightness of touch to her story telling. Her time in Canada was retold with warmth and affection. I looked forward to reading the rest of the book.
For those with an inclination to this subject some of the themes that run through Wanderland will not be surprising. Labyrinths is one of them and initially she visits one on the coast in Cornwall. I enjoyed her telling of this experience and continued to warm to the book. Cornwall appears again in another chapter and this one was a favourite of mine. She walk St Michael’s Way which crosses from the north coast to the south to arrive at St Michael’s Mount. I was aware of this route however I didn’t realise it was part of the Camino. It’s certainly gone on to the to do list!
While the theme of looking for the magical continues throughout the book the locations are varied. Her time in Iona was something I really enjoyed however Glastonbury maybe worked less well for her and I was unsurprised I guess. Some of her experiences in Wales fell short of what she had hoped for too. The experiences she had that appealed to me worked well and powerfully so at times. The quest for the secret spring was one I loved. Trees, ruins and legends all feature in this book and in the author’s desire to be able to gain something from them.
I was drawn to Wanderland initially based on the idea that it might appeal to those who liked Robert Macfarlane’s work (I certainly do!). For me it isn’t really quite like that but there are echoes here. This is a quest for something. However to me, while apparently a quest in places, it seemed like an inner quest too. Jini was seeking the shaman, the mystic, the earth mother and the like within herself as well as meeting Others. Maybe she was also looking for a purpose after some life events that were somewhat mixed. This book is worthwhile for what she finds and what she doesn’t. However I found it most fascinating for the things and people who find her – synchronicity, happenstance or whatever; some of these encounters were the best parts of the book for me.
This is an intensely personal narrative and I’m sure some will find it not to their taste. I thoroughly enjoyed the read and I’d like to think I would visit some of the places myself in time. If you see themes and ideas in this that appeal to you I would honestly say give it a try. This is a warm, interesting and accessible read. I will certainly be interested in any further books by Jini Reddy. 4.5/5
Note – I received an advance digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair review