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Jen Hadfield ‘Storm Pegs: A Life Made in Shetland’ (Book Review)

With Storm Pegs: A Life Made in Shetland, Poet Jen Hadfield has created an introduction to Shetland, a celebration and love letter to the island that has given her a wider meaning to life, and the landscapes and weather that her writing give focus to. Chaptered using Shetlandic words and phrases, and helpfully giving definitions, Jen links her experiences of the wilds of Shetland to the language, and gives an insight into the archipelago.

Jen Hadfield was the youngest poet to win the T. S. Eliot Prize for her second collection Nigh-No-Place, and now lives in Shetland with her young family. Moving away from poetry, this new publication is an exploratory text about living and working as a writer on this rugged and breathtaking land, one that is entrenched with folklore and customs. The archipelago has long fascinated tourists and newcomers, it doesn’t venture too far from the definition of memoir, as she discusses life alongside the words that make up the Shetlandic dialect. The chapter that focuses on the snowy owl had me enraptured, and in suspense about what may occur.

Being a sooth-moother (an incomer to Shetland), her voice is inevitably varied and adds an authenticity to a tale of someone falling in love with and moving to this place teeming with community and wildlife. The storm pegs (of the title) signify the formidability in hanging one’s washing on Shetland, and perhaps allude to the dogged attitude required for living there; though never does Hadfield imply that she will ever tire of this living.


Storm Pegs: A Life Made in Shetland is out on 11th July, published by Picador.

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