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Time Song

REVIEW

Time Song - Searching for Doggerland

Julia Blackburn


Doggerland is the name given to the land mass now submerged beneath the North Sea, which once connected Britain with continental Europe. For much of the past two million years Doggerland was a rich landscape populated by diverse flora and fauna including mammoths, aurochs, bison, bears and humans. As recently as 7,000 years ago a significant area was land above sea level.

All her life, Julia Blackburn has been fascinated by the ancient remains she has collected from the shores of East Anglia and further afield. By fossicking, observing, talking to experts and enthusiasts, reading and researching she re-imagines the landscape and its inhabitants at different periods through dramatic environmental changes.

What makes Time Song a rich and original work is the humanity that the author brings to the abstract concepts of palaeontology, geomorphology and other disciplines which have revealed so much of the science of this lost world and the breadth and imagination of her thinking that makes connections to our modern lives to issues such as climate change, geopolitics and identity.

Blackburn meets people with connections to Doggerland today; these personal stories bring their own knowledge and perspectives and help us relate to the world before modern humans.

By examining fragments of remains, applying broader understanding and knowledge, she convincingly brings to life the place that was / is Doggerland. In doing so the reader’s sense of time is stretched far beyond our normal quotidian existence but not just in a chronological sense of years, lifetimes and cultures: Time Song is a meditation on loss, absence and what is left behind.

Blackburn writes beautifully, skillfully blending deep learning and science with personal experience and reflection.

A sequence of ‘songs’ distill some of the essence of her reflections as she follows the path of her research. And intriguing, abstract drawings by Enrique Brinkman complement this finely made book with its wide margins, thoughtful typography and colour illustrations. The lasting pleasure and depth to Time Song springs from the themes and ideas it generates – truly an enriching book.

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