Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Book Review: The Last Hunters: The Crab Fishermen of Cromer by Candy Whittome with photography by David Morris

Winner of the Best Book at the 2012 East Anglian Book Awards

The Last Hunters is a pitch-perfect study of the lives of Cromer's crab fishermen. Told in their own words, as well as those of their families’ and the people closest to them, it offers the reader a unexpectedly intimate view behind the often hard facades of these men of action. The result is an engagingly human and incredibly readable insight into people whose love of their work and life at sea is tempered only by awareness of its inherent danger and uncertain future. These men’s stories – of their careers and family lives, of boats heaving with catch and long winter months without, of long days and emotional strains – are a testament to extraordinary lives lived in conversation with the natural world.

Candy Whittome’s prose enables each voice to sing its own melody, yet builds these individual voices together to create a sum that is greater than that of its parts. Oral history can sometimes become a little repetitive as those interviewed repeat each other. That doesn't happen here and it is to the authors credit that the last story is read as eagerly as the first. David Morris’s portrait photography compliments their stories without dominating our perceptions of the protagonists, adding an extra dimension to the people and their work. Full Circle Editions produce beautiful books, and this is a wonderful book to have and to hold, to read and to look at. So effectively did Candy Whittome engage me in the stories of these fishermen that I came away keen to visit Cromer and spend a couple of hours watching them at work.

These fishermen mourn the dying of their trade without sentimentality, yet their lives are a fight to preserve the way of life against apparently insurmountable odds. The Last Hunters will transform perceptions of Cromer's crab fishermen and their trade and feels like a book that will be referenced in years to come; it is a freeze-frame of a rapidly fading history that sings out, poignant and powerful, against the fading of the light.

The Last Hunters: The Crab Fishermen of Cromer was published by Full Circle Editions in 2012. ISBN: 9780957152809, 214pp

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