About the Book
Nine years ago, Kathleen Hart was diagnosed with breast cancer. Further complications led to a protracted recovery and months spent in hospital, where Kathleen had to learn how to walk again. While recuperating, she came across a small, whitewashed cottage for sale in Wigtown, Scotland. Driving hundreds of miles on nothing more than a few photographs and an inkling, she bought it that very same day, and named it Devorgilla after the formidable 13th century Scottish princess.
Heartwarming and deeply moving, Devorgilla Days is an inspiring tale of one woman’s remarkable journey, a celebration of community, and a call-to-arms for anyone who has ever dreamt of starting over.
Format: Paperback (352 pages) Publisher: Two Roads
Publication date: 14th April 2022 Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir
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Resilience is the word that springs to mind when reading about Kathleen Hart’s long and arduous recovery from life-threatening illness, a process that was not without its setbacks. Devorgilla Days charts her decision to leave her old life behind (a surprisingly glamorous one, we learn) and move to Wigtown, known as Scotland’s book capital. A town with twelve bookshops – how fantastic is that? The rather dilapidated cottage she renovates she names Devorgilla after a 13th century Scottish princess whose independence of spirit Kathleen emulates in spades.
The author writes of her surprise at the generosity of the local people and how readily they welcome her into the community. It’s the sort of place where people leave fresh lobsters at your door, bring you a hot drink at the beach on a cold day or check up on you if they haven’t seen you for a few days. However, I think Kathleen underplays her own willingness to throw herself into the life of the town, chatting to people she meets in the street and embracing the various social activities Wigtown has to offer. ‘Have a go’ becomes her motto and so we see her taking art and tai chi classes, joining ‘Knit and Natter’ sessions in the village hall, attempting to learn Scottish country dancing (even if she describes her efforts as those of ‘a geriatric elephant’), attending pub quiz nights and, eventually, taking a course in beekeeping.
Central to her new life though – and an essential part of her physical and mental recovery- is her daily swim in the sea. One of the lovely features of the book is the chapters in which Kathleen relates details of her daily swim and the wildlife she encounters – everything from ‘belligerent gulls’ to ‘a bedraggled skein of geese’ to jellyfish (the latter with rather unfortunate results). Although she lives alone, it’s by choice; a conscious decision to focus on what’s important to her and to prioritise her own wellbeing. As she observes, ‘I’m learning to be my own best friend.’ The cottage itself, which she gradually fills with furniture from the Aladdin’s cave which is the community shop, she describes as her sanctuary, ‘a hug of a place where I feel comfortable and safe’.
Devorgilla Days is an unflinchingly honest account of recovering from the trauma of serious illness. It’s also a wonderfully uplifting book about the power of the human spirit, the role of nature in our health and wellbeing, and the importance of community.
My thanks to Xanthe Rendall at John Murray Press for my review copy.
In three words: Truthful, moving, inspiring
Try something similar: Where the Hornbeam Grows by Beth Lynch
About the Author
Kathleen Hart was educated at a convent school in Cheshire before experimenting with various occupations, from air hostess to antiques dealer, but her favourite so far is author. She does her best writing in Devorgilla Cottage, where she keeps bees, swims in the sea and every day encourage thousands of her PoshPedlar Instagram followers to ‘make room for the magic’. (Photo: Twitter profile)