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Book Review: The Light in the Dark: A Winter Journal by Horatio Clare

Horatio Clare writes with great candour and generosity in The Light in the Dark: A Winter Journal, offering a fierce flicker of hope to others in this illuminating contemplation of his own depression.

As November stubs out the glow of autumn and the days tighten into shorter hours, winter’s occupation begins. Preparing for winter has its own rhythms, as old as our exchanges with the land. Of all the seasons, it draws us together. But winter can be tough. 

It is a time of introspection, of looking inwards. Seasonal sadness; winter blues; depression – such feelings are widespread in the darker months. But by looking outwards, by being in and observing nature, we can appreciate its rhythms. Mountains make sense in any weather. The voices of a wood always speak consolation. A brush of frost; subtle colours; days as bright as a magpie’s cackle. We can learn to see and celebrate winter in all its shadows and lights.

When Clare’s early September birthday prompts thoughts of winter, a season he’s struggled through in recent years, he recalls how: “Last winter I thought I would go mad with depression. I was mad, but aware-mad, at least.

Clare tries to find and harness winter’s beauty and light to help him function better and be more present for his family. His journal is an attempt to avoid being pulled under again, by bleak weather and drab washed-out colours; loss of daylight and warmth; layers that muffle sound and feeling and by the withdrawal or hibernation of living creatures.

He might not stave off his depression but where he was “aware-mad” last winter, I’d say he’s “aware-depressed” here. In noting down and describing what he sees, he conducts a remarkable reappraisal of what some consider to be a dead season, discovering the colour and beauty of winter, and finding life in muted, often lonely isolation.

Clare’s ferocious love for his family and the natural world comes through in this lyrical and moving record of his debilitating battle with depression. Its pages whisper hope and come with a promise that, no matter how weak or subdued, the light is still there in winter. Horatio Clare reveals the truth in this through being an admirably honest and tenacious torchbearer here, and by opening himself up to others, he encapsulates The Light in the Dark.

The Light in the Dark: A Winter Journal by Horatio Clare is published by Elliot & Thompson. It is available as an ebook, in hardback and in paperback from 3 October. You can find it at Amazon UK or instead buy it from Hive where every purchase you make helps to support your local independent bookshop. For more on the author and his writing, check out his Author Website or find him on Twitter

My thanks to the publisher and LoveReading for providing me with a review copy. This review first appeared on LoveReading’s website here.

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