My book review of 'Hermit' by Jade Angeles Fitton
This is part memoir, part musings and histories of Hermits through the ages. As the former, I found it rather odd but, as the latter, there were lots of interesting thoughts and ideas about isolation.
The author tells us that her long term relationship had broken down, but it was abusive, so there are a number of issues that she has to deal with in building her new life on her own. As she confronts these, she explores how other people live alone.
Talking to hermits throughout the world, the author introduces us to monks and hikikomori, the female hermit and the anchoress. She asks whether aloneness or hermitic living is possible through modern technology and transport, and what we really think of people who remove themselves from society.
For her own life, struggling to find somewhere to live, she comes to understand certain features of simplicity and isolation. How time passes at a different rate when you're alone, she says, and how you are better able to access memories. But how maintaining your own existence requires practical self-sufficiency.
Solitude can enhance and enable our creativity too, she says. And it is important to find the space to listen to and understand our own thoughts and opinions. In the 21st century is it possible to find this isolation, to become a hermit, with the constant hum of communication? Although connection is associated with increased mental wellbeing, studies show that the more online we are, the more unbalanced we become in real life, she says.
The author embarks on another relationship but as lockdown hits, they find themselves holed up on the Scilly Islands with a hermit-like existence of limited food and resources.
There's a lot in this book to enjoy and explore though, for me, this was outside the author's personal story. Overall it's a fascinating account of recovery, home and finding solitude in the natural world.