I am delighted to be sharing a book that is a little bit different to my usual reads. “The Old Man and The Sand Eel” by Will Millard is available for purchase from 1st March 2018 in various formats. Published by Penguin UK.
Growing up on the Cambridgeshire Fens, Will Millard never felt more at home than when he was out with his granddad on the riverbank, whiling away the day catching fish. As he grew older his competitive urge to catch more and bigger fish led him away from that natural connection between him, his grandfather and the rivers of his home. That is, until the fateful day he let a record-breaking sand eel slip through his fingers and he knew that he had lost the magic of those days down by the river, and that something had to change.
The Old Man and the Sand Eel is at its heart the story of three generations of men trying to figure out what it is to be a man, a father and a fisherman. It plots Will’s scaly stepping stones back to his childhood innocence, when anything was possible and the wild was everywhere.
The cover of this book caught my eye, then the synopsis did it’s job. I decided this was a title I definitely wanted to read. I know a little of the Fens and with the odd fishing trip with my dad, made me think this is a book that I would enjoy.
Will’s Granddad taught him a huge amount about fishing on the Fens then as he got older it was his Dad that gave him a chance to learn new skills. This is not just a book about fishing, though it does feature heavily. It is a book that looks at the wildlife, flora and fauna around the different watery habitats around the UK. Over the years Will has used different rigs, baits and lures from the old traditional to the modern all singing dancing set ups. He also discusses how fishing has changed over the years, along with the expectations of what is required. From the ditches, drains, hidden ponds and wild runs to the commercial fisheries. The way people have moved from the may catch a fish to the almost guaranteed catch one. The commercial fisheries have their place, they are well stocked and well cared for, the fish are bigger well fed and produce the biggest fish for those who like to chase the record breakers.
But this book also takes a more personal look at his life growing up, it is full of amusing at times anecdotes, the old tales, traditions and also fishing folklore that has been handed down. Sometimes it is not just about the biggest or largest catch, it is more about relaxing, to stop stressing about things and just enjoy your fishing.
It has important and fascinating facts surrounding the environment, wildlife and nature, sometimes these work well side by side, but other times they can have been to the detriment of other species. Things over the years have changed and now people are more aware of endangered species measures are being put in place. We need to protect our natural environment and also to help put right what has been done in the past.
This is a lovely book that is full of wonderfully told memories and stories from Will’s perspective. It ambled along beautifully, and had me laughing at times with some of his childhood antics, but it also carries some important messages and fascinating facts. This is a book I would definitely recommend to readers of memoirs, fishing, nature and environment.
I would like to thank NetGalley and the publishers for my eARC of this book. My thoughts are my own and are unbiased.
About the Author:
Will Millard is a writer, BBC presenter, public speaker, and expedition leader.
Born and brought up in the Fens, he presents remote Anthropology and Adventure series for BBC Two, and series on Rivers, Urban Exploration, and History for BBC Wales. In 2016 he won the BAFTA Cymru Award for Best Presenter and his series have received nominations for Best Series and Best Presenter in the Grierson, Broadcast, Bannf, Kendal, and the Televisual Bulldog Awards. Please visit the ‘Documentaries’ tab for more.
His first book The Old Man and the Sand Eel for Penguin (Viking) follows his wild journey across Britain in pursuit of a fishing record and will be out on March 1st 2018 (but is available for preorder now through Amazon), and his next BBC Two series, charting a year in the life of the extraordinary Korawai tribe in West Papua, will be on your screens this Easter.
Many thanks for reading my post, if you liked it give a share or two. Better still grab yourself a copy of this book 🙂 xx