The Secret History of Here: A Year in the Valley

Alistair Moffat. Canongate, $27 (384p) ISBN 978-1-83885-113-2

Historian Moffat (The Hidden Ways) offers a charming, vivid collection of journal entries that capture the day-to-day life and history of his family farm in Scotland. “Every place has its history, its secrets,” he writes, and the secrets of the land’s past come out in Moffat’s month-by-month diary entries. In January, blackbirds eat fermented apples, while March sees Moffat describing the “warming spring ground,” and November brings extreme weather exacerbated by climate change. Along the way, the author brings surprising stories to light, as when he recalls the construction of a wall around 1109 CE, “a vast, sprawling project that could not have failed to touch the lives of the people of our little valley.” Above all, Moffat’s work is a lyrical rumination on time and nature: “Instead of looking at my wrist to discover the time of day... it occurred to me that I should look up at the sky, sense the shift of the weather, the seasons, and glory in the day.” This deeply observed chronicle enchants. Agent: David Godwin, David Godwin Assoc. (July)