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3.0 out of 5 starsPERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS AGAINST A FISHING BACKDROP
Reviewed in the United States on November 23, 2013
Though the author's writing is very readable and in some instances quite enjoyable when he describes the countryside of Great Britain and how he came to learn his fly fishing in these waters, I found myself wandering as I read the book. How this young boy came to become a fly fisherman and the fishing experiences he enjoyed are more of a backdrop for those other experiences in personal relationship, family ties and lessons learned through these experiences. The depth of this book into these aspects of growing up and what one learns certain lesson in life based on personal experiences and unforgettable milestones are something the reader may understand and interpret quite readily or not. I could not find a comfortable pace in reading this book though it may be my perceptions and thoughts to which other readers may not find.
5.0 out of 5 starsobviously, a lot more than a fishing book
Reviewed in the United States on January 20, 2014
To call this an angling book is like calling Moby-Dick (and I am not placing "Blood Knots" on *that* pedestal) a whaling book. Any angler will enjoy the author's descriptions and insights into fishing. On that level alone, it is in thin company, since there are way too many overwritten and trite fishing books that try to be Meaningful as well. No reason to repeat the informative reviews that others have posted here, except to emphasize that non-anglers will enjoy the book too, even though some choice portions will blow right past them.
5.0 out of 5 starsLiteracy Combined with Great Flyfishing Facts & Stories!
Reviewed in the United States on November 3, 2018
Flyfishing in England is different, historical and combined with that British sense of duty & humor. This is a super example of precisely that combination. I feel inspired to get out with my rod and fly box o fe again!
5.0 out of 5 starsBeautiful, poignant, haunting memoir
Reviewed in the United States on July 29, 2015
This is a brilliant memoir by Luke Jennings. It is a story about life, friendships, war, and even some fishing. It is beautifully written and is the kind of book you want to keep even after you've read it; it bears reading more than once. It is one of the best books I've read in the past several years.
Fishers are a different breed who find failure with pouring rain and stubborn prey soul satisfying. Blood Knots captures this strange form of insanity with engaging stories and that special feeling when one engages these wonderful wild creatures lurking often just out of sight or in our imagination only. A book to put your feet up and share the authors experiences as if you were there.
5.0 out of 5 starsBlood Knots: A Memoir of Fathers, Friendship, and Fishing by Luke Jennings
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 30, 2013
Buy this book! Once in every generation a work of undeniable genius appears in England: this is it.
"Blood Knots" by Luke Jennings was originally published in 2010, to very complimentary reviews. It has subsequently been reprinted as a paperback and a new American hardback edition has now issued. I have obtained a copy. This may be the most eloquent testimony that I can give: I did so because my original copy, a paperback, had begun to fall to bits. I had carried it around in my briefcase and, if waiting to see the doctor, riding on the Underground, or otherwise forced to be inactive for a while, I would open it and read it. It is one of those rare books that you can open randomly at any page and find something enjoyable. The American edition has the additional advantage of an excellent introduction by Thomas McGuane, author of "The Longest Silence." My only criticism of the introduction is that McGuane refers to Jennings' mentor, Robert Nairac, as an SAS officer; he was in fact from the Grenadier Guards.
Luke Jennings is a renaissance man. In addition to being a serious angler and a brilliant writer on angling, he has written several novels and is the dance critic of the Observer newspaper. An apparently devout Catholic, although he deplored the modernising changes that emerged from Vatican II, he was educated at Ampleforth Abbey, the Benedictine monastery in Yorkshire whose school, Ampleforth College, is regarded as "the Catholic Eton".
As a child in the 1960s, Jennings was fascinated by the streams and lakes near his home. His father, a courageous cavalry officer badly burned in a tank battle in 1944, was not a fisherman and could not have angled, given the horrific injuries that his hands had sustained. He did however buy his son his first rod, setting him on a path that would lead to many waterways, from chalk trout streams in Southern England to dangerous hidden canals in north London where great pike lurk among the abandoned trolleys and other rubbish, and muggers and prostitutes lurk among the canal-side undergrowth. Jennings' father, who comes across as modest, truthful, deeply moral and quietly heroic, was his first mentor and helped to set his moral compass, as well as gradually introducing him to country pursuits. Other Fathers, the monks of Ampleforth, also helped: quietly preparing boys not for material success in life, but for right living and holy dying.
At the age of twelve Jennings had the luck to encounter for the first time Robert Nairac, then aged nineteen, who had just left Ampleforth and was spending a gap year as an Assistant Master teaching History at Jennings' prep school before going to Oxford to read Mediaeval and Military History. After Oxford he joined the Army. He and Jennings were destined to be friends for just nine years. Nairac proved to be an inspirational teacher, whose tuition extended beyond the classroom to introducing his protégé to serious angling, including dry-fly fishing; shooting and falconry. So began an enlightening, but often dark-shadowed journey, of discovery. It would lead to bright streams and wild country, but would end with his mentor's abduction, torture and murder by the IRA in 1977.
Robert Nairac was as great a moral influence as Jennings' father. He was not a typical 60s teenager. He was an old-fashioned and devout Catholic or almost mediaeval intensity, as well as a fanatical devotee of field sports; the two, religion and sports, being mystically - and sometimes bloodily - entwined in Nairac's scheme of things. Jennings sums up Nairac's lesson far more eloquently than I could: "I understand now why Robert was absolutist in his method, and why he spoke of honour and dry fly in the same sentence. Because the rules we impose on ourselves are everything - especially in the face of nature which, for all its outward poetry, is a slaughterhouse. It's not a question of wilfully making things harder, but of a purity of approach without which success has no meaning. And this, ultimately, was his lesson: that the fiercest joy is to be a spectator of your own conduct and find no cause for complaint." How many of us are in that happy position? It seems that Nairac was.
The book has an elegiac quality throughout. So many of the characters have died, often quite young. Another of Jennings' angling friends (pike angling in this case) was Rene Berg, the musician, vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter. He too died young in 2003. The cause of death was not an overdose but a culmination of depression and years of hard living and drinking taking their toll.
"Blood Knots" is a great book on angling but, like Izaak Walton's The Compleat Angler, it can be read and enjoyed as literature by non-anglers. I have done very little fishing but finished the book at two sittings. It is un-put-downable. Two people to whom I gave copies - one a keen angler, the other a non-angler - found it equally irresistible. Part of the pleasure of reading it is the concisely elegant prose, which is worthy of a seventeenth-century writer. I do not know Jennings but suspect that he is very familiar with the writings of Sir Thomas Browne, Robert Burton and George Herbert. If you are only browsing the book, read Chapter 17, the shortest chapter, devoted to Claude Lorrain's painting Landscape with the Nymph Egeria in the Capodimonte Museum in Naples (and yes; it is relevant to the theme). `Past, present and future are one'.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 11, 2012
This is an engagingly pleasant and rambling fishing memoir, which begins with a telling and edgy sketch of angling in a dingy London canal. The central power of Jennings' book is his evocation of meeting and fly fishing with the dashing young Robert Nairac, who was later murdered by the IRA. With a deft touch, Jennings hints at how his early hero-worship of Nairac was tempered by his later realization that the glamorous but possibly reactionary Nairac had a strong reckless streak (which turned out to be fatal). There are amusing reminiscences of Avisford prep school (curiously, Jennings does not say that his father was the headmaster) and some truly hilarious chapters on Ampleforth College. Jennings's account of his father's bravery and burning in World war Two is affecting, though the part which his mother played in his life (surely not insignificant?) is not mentioned.
Jennings characterises fishing as connecting with nature, which makes sense. His descriptions of particular fishing episodes are marvellously evocative. There is too much technical detail on fishing tackle for me (which others may find interesting), but the relaxed style is a pleasure to read.
In some ways, this book was surprisingly (though lightly) nostalgic and concerned with what it means to be English, in a suitably under-stated and non-analytical way - and all the more powerful for that. A curious aspect - again, quite English - is that Jennings seems to be non-religious and yet he regrets the modernising impact which Vatican II had on Catholicism.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 23, 2014
Wonderful book for anyone who enjoys fishing, or who just has a close relationship with the countryside. This book is evocative, and gentle reading, though it takes a little while to get going (unless you are more an 'angler' than a fisherman!) I have given it to lots of people to read, and everyone so far seems to have enjoyed it. A good way to relax and escape to the river out of season.
5.0 out of 5 starsIn the mind in an adictive fisherman
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 3, 2014
It is a book more of the mind of a young boy growing up following his passion for fishing... from early childhood through to his adventures as a grown man it is most sensitively written and holds you to the page all the way through. A simply lovely read...