A lovely book in more than one sense, this feels like a ‘real book’. It's hardback with a dust cover … the whole deal. The cover is an illustration by Denys Watkins-Pitchford (aka BB) and his illustrations punctuate the whole volume very nicely.
Anthologies are slightly odd beasts, particularly when the author is not about to choose what goes in and influence the order. The editor of this collection has decided to order the pieces by age, starting with stories of childhood adventures, then on to the mature angler, shooting man, etc. What gets included is a broad cross section of BB’s work – short stories, pieces which read like articles and excerpts from larger written works. The earliest story here is from 1937 and the most recent, 1984. BB was a fairly prolific writer and clearly had a long writing career.
Reading these stories it’s clear BB is of an older generation, the stories read well but the word choices, sentence structure and subjects place the writer. Then as I read on the stories begin to take over, I get surprised by words occasionally but really the best of these pieces are quite captivating and all are entertaining.
I feel a sort of double nostalgia when I read these. Obviously, the stories are often set ‘back then,’ decades before I was born. However, I also read some of these as a schoolboy; I read anything about fishing avidly.
Don’t expect to learn how to fish or shoot or delight in the countryside in these pages. I’m sure some people will find BB’s world a little too refined and upper-middle class. Get through that and expect to find touching commentary on why you fish, or shoot or delight in the countryside. Lovely book.
The Best of BB; Merlin Unwin Books (£18.95; hardback)