Nest by Inga Simpson

You know when a book is quite lovely but it’s just not your thing? That’s what happened with me and Nest by Inga Simpson.

It was probably shaky ground from the outset because this is how I feel about birds:

But anyway, Simpson builds a loose story about a missing girl, and her own missing father, around abundant details of birds, nests, drawing birds, observing birds, forests, timber and gardening. This is how I feel about gardening:

It’s lucky I like trees.

As a child, Jen told her father that the trees spoke to her, and he had not seemed surprised. They spoke to her still. They gentled her, had allowed her to put down roots, and extend them – albeit tentatively – into the ground.

The descriptions of birds and plants are beautifully written and evocative –

Up and around the next bend, on a drier and narrower path, she dropped into a shallow mallee heath valley. The grass trees were bigger, and the geebung. The banksias, dwarfed and gnarly, were a sea of yellow candles, lighting the understorey.

The quail were at it again. Flecked brown, low to the ground. Chirping. A covey of at least twelve scuttling off into the undergrowth with a clumsy waddle, as it they couldn’t fly.

But page after page of lovely descriptions was just too much for me.

There’s a story in there somewhere, as well as a solid theme of security and how that can be threatened on a personal and societal level, but this is certainly not a plot-driven book despite what the blurb may suggest.

2.5/5 You would really have to be in the mood for something quiet and reflective.

Jen bakes melting moments.


16 responses

  1. I’m also not a fan of birds (beady eyes, claws, what’s to like?!) but I do love gardening. I’m a sucker for descriptive writing but it has to be pinned down to something more, so I think overall this may not be for me!

  2. There is plenty of literary fiction in which the plot is secondary to the writing and the descriptions. Obviously I can’t tell if this one works but good on Inga Simpson for giving it a try.

    • I never mind a plot taking back seat to the writing except when publishers promise something different in the blurb. I think one testimonial said “gripping”. No, this book is not gripping at all. I am more than happy to become absorbed in words about landscape (and even birds) – Carrie Tiffany comes to mind – but in this case, I blame the publisher – the book doesn’t do what it says on the wrapper. Now obviously I can get over it but what’s frustrating is that she misses reaching an audience who would love this kind of thing and irritates the audience looking for a mystery… no one wins.

  3. I’ve yet to read Inga Simpson – and I’m keen to try. I don’t mind a lot of descriptive writing if it’s beautiful writing and tells me something. I don’t need a strong plot but I need the book to be about something, if that makes sense.

    Once upon a time I would have said the same about both birds and gardening. I now really like birds – and talk to the magpies who potter around our front yard. I’m an indifferent gardener. I don’t love it, but I do like it, if that makes sense. It wouldn’t beat reading for example!! SO my garden has to be easy care.

    • The way Simpson explores her themes in Nest is well done – looked oat from lots of angles but it’s done subtlety.

      I don’t mind birds… high up in the sky or in trees 😀 but don’t want them near me, or in cages, or pecking around my back door. We have a family of magpies in our yard who are quite fine and don’t swoop because they know us, and I do like their warbling. I will NEVER like weeding!

  4. lol Birds don’t seem to bother me too bad but that’s definitely how I feel about gardening too.

  5. I was interested to see what you thought of Nest. I read Simpson’s previous book and while it was lovely it was also not a plot-driven book. I can’t decide whether I want to read Nest or not.

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