Fingers in the Sparkle Jar

  • by Chris Packham
  • Narrated by Chris Packham
  • 8 hrs and 47 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Every minute was magical, every single thing it did was fascinating and everything it didn't do was equally wondrous, and to be sat there with a kestrel, a real live kestrel, my own real live kestrel on my wrist! I felt like I'd climbed through a hole in heaven's fence.
An introverted, unusual young boy, isolated by his obsessions and a loner at school, Chris Packham was only at home in the fields and woods around his suburban home. But when he stole a young kestrel from its nest, he was about to embark on a friendship that would teach him what it meant to love - and that would change him forever.
In his rich, lyrical and emotionally exposing memoir, Chris brings to life his childhood in the '70s, from his bedroom bursting with fox skulls, birds' eggs and sweaty jam jars to his feral adventures. But pervading his story is the search for freedom, meaning and acceptance in a world that didn't understand him. Beautifully wrought, this coming-of-age memoir will be unlike any you've ever heard.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

The Call of the Wild

This is wildlife presenter Chris Packham's story of his childhood and adolescence. With his all-consuming passions for wildlife and his obsessional behaviour, the boy Chris knew that he was different, that he wasn't programmed to empathise with others - he just couldn't be like other people, least of all the other pupils at school (he was diagnosed in his 30s as having Asperger's syndrome). The anguish that this caused him - being the victim of brutal, heart-breaking bullying; knowing that he either talked too little or too much; the cringe-making attempts to connect with girls; the attachment to Anna in the pornographic magazine he found in a hedge - are detailed in acute, self-aware detail. Later on he details his feelings when he was suicidal on two different heart-rending occasions, and these offer insights which give positive understanding into into the mind-sets of those in such a dark place.

The flip side of the tortured anguish is Chris's passionate love of wildlife of every kind and, when younger, of dinosaurs about which he knew every fact there was to know. His fascination leads him to eat toad larvae to see if their molecules would sharpen his vision; to cycle off on night wildlife adventures; and become obsessed with otters. His greatest love was his rescued kestrel which was, as Chris writes so beautifully, 'something shiney I had caught with my heart' and which he tended and trained with meticulous care and devotion.

The 1970s background with all its minutiae of period detail - the Z Cars, Angel Delight, electric fires, Punk Rock - make the whole vibrantly real. The content is superb but I do have reservations about the writing, which is why it gets a 4 rather than 5. I can see that Packham intends the passages about the wildlife to convey his own young self's ecstasy which he experienced when with creatures, but he overdoes the prose. I found it overblown - far too many adjectives, metaphors (sometimes strained beyond meaning) , similes, adverbs, nouns made into verbs... just far too dense. Fewer would have been more effective. Sometimes his words are brilliant inventions - such as when he says at school when everyone else starts going to drunken parties at the weekends, he does his best to 'de-exist'. Also I'm not sure that Packham, makes the best narrator. He tends to put too much excitement into the wildlife passages to convey that same ecstasy, but for me it detracted.

But don't let that reservation put you off - this is a very special story and the incident where Chris tries to save a fox caught in the water with a snare around its neck is tremendously powerful and left me literally gasping. You won't hear a story like this anywhere else.
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- Rachel Redford

Riveting tale of love and loss.

Loved it. The highs and lows of Chris Packham's animal - entwined adventures throughout his youth is a compelling read.
Read beautifully by the author.
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- Lisa Morin

Book Details

  • Release Date: 05-05-2016
  • Publisher: Random House Audiobooks