REVIEW by Jem Poster

NWR Issue 100

Kith: The Riddle of the Childscape

by Jay Griffiths

In her award-winning Wild, Jay Griffiths described her experience of a range of cultures whose relationship to the earth implicitly challenges the greedy materialism that threatens their existence. Now, in Kith, she presents us with another threatened world: the world of childhood. The book is less an argument than a compendium – a gathering of evidence that repressive attitudes to childhood, particularly in Europe and the United States, have resulted in dispossession and trauma.

The essential idea is not a particularly novel one, but the book’s value lies in the cumulative weight of the evidence it provides, and in the passion and fluency of its exposition. There’s a certain scholarliness in the wide-ranging research that informs the writing, but Griffiths’ discourse is that of the preacher rather than the scholar: the book is a vigorous diatribe against the forces that seek to deny children their birthright – their ‘kith’, a word which, as she explains, numbers among its meanings a place of belonging, a land we recognise as home...

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previous review: Baader-Meinhof and the Novel, Narrative of the Nation/Fantasies of the Revolution, 1970-2010
next review: Snowdon, The Story of a Mountain


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