LEIGH FORBES: Books of all Sorts

The Swordfish and the Star: Life on Cornwall’s most treacherous stretch of coast


by Gavin Knight.

A fascinating account of life for those on Cornwall’s far-west peninsular, this book covers fishing, art, a bit about mining and smuggling, incomers, poverty, family, feuds, fighting, alcohol, and drugs.

I enjoyed this book well enough, but it reads like a brain-dump – as though the author recorded the oral histories of those involved, then wrote down their streams of consciousness verbatim (though having dealt with oral histories myself, it’s obvious this book will have been extensively edited): the tales are fascinating, but disjointed – with disconnected sentences thrown in at frequent intervals – and it jumps back and forward in time, leaving it hard to keep track of the very many people involved. It also got a little repetitive in a few places.

Having spent childhood summers with my grandparents in Helston, this book was a must-read for me, and – although it was exhausting to read, and I doubt I’ll read it again – it’s clearly a valuable history of the area, and I’m glad I read it.


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