Paperback: Hellfire and Herring: A childhood remembered, By Christopher Rush

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The Independent Culture

The little Scottish fishing village of St Monans once boasted fishermen who could "smell a shoal of herring in the breeze as accurately as a gannet" and a hellfire preacher who thundered from his pulpit like a "dog-collared Viking". The undertaker, also the boat-builder, was a man with a good line in black humour who generously sized up bodies at a glance: "Nobody went cramped into eternity in a James Miller coffin... the ships were tight but the boxes were comfortable." With characters such as these surrounding him, local boy Christopher Rush spent his adolescence experimenting with poetry and sex amid the leafy woods of Fife.

Hellfire and herring: as Rush recreates the 1940s and 50s world of his childhood, you can almost smell them on the page. This is a beautifully written memoir. There are many unforgettable anecdotes, but the writing is so poetic, so full of spirit, that these memories don't feel like things of the past. Rush makes it seem as if they're on the verge of happening once again.