08 Jan What is David Fursdon Reading?
In the second of our occasional series of blog posts, What Are You Reading?, we are delighted to be hosting David Fursdon, Lord Lieutenant of Devon, who is talking to us about some of the books he has been reading recently.
What are you reading at the moment? Why would our readers enjoy it?
I have just started reading The Happiest Man on Earth by Eddie Jaku. Recommended to me by people whose judgement I respect, it is a story about positivity from a man who has just turned 100 and has seen the very worst side of human nature at Buchenwald and Auschwitz and moved on. It feels particularly apposite during a pandemic during which many people have felt so bleak. This book might be helpful to those who have been dealt the worst blows but I have read only the first chapter so far!
The most memorable book you read in 2020; and why?
Last year I read All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr which cleverly brings together the lives of two teenagers on opposing sides during the Second World War with great originality. Their journeys highlight the dilemmas and conflicts facing ordinary people in war but with the added twist of focussing on a young girl with a disability, in this case blindness. It was a great read and my favourite this year.
A book you return to and reread; and why?
I don’t normally re-read books (unless I have forgotten that I have already read it!) so a book to which I would return is likely to be a reference book of some kind. Subjects might be architecture, cricket or history and landscape so I must mention the Exeter writer, Professor W.G Hoskins, and his books The Making of the English Landscape; Two thousand Years in Exeter; and Devon. Hoskins began his TV series based around the first of his books mentioned above by talking to my uncle in front of the house in which we lived for 40 years.
Your favourite book of all time; and why?
My favourite book of all time will not be familiar to many. It is Tea, Love and War by David Mitchell. It is a gripping story about a man sent out tea planting in Assam who then disappears after the fall of Singapore to the Japanese in WWII and the search for him and his family by his daughter. The moment that hit me was when I was reading the book on holiday and suddenly came across the passage that described how my own father had played an important part in unpicking the puzzle that led the daughter to her wider family. I stared at the page and re-read it and re-read it until it became too dark to see.
I hadn’t realised that warfare is a relevant factor in all these books. Maybe I was concentrating more than I thought as we ploughed through Homer’s The Iliad at school!
David Fursdon’s early career includes a commission in the 6th Gurkha Rifles, serving in Brunei and Hong Kong; a Scholarship to Oxford where he won two cricket blues; time in the Civil Service; and teaching at Blundell’s school in Tiverton. Retraining as a rural surveyor, he worked in agriculture and rural property across Devon and elsewhere for over 30 years. He currently chairs the Board of a progressive farming company that uses technology to try to improve sustainability. Other work has included leading the CLA, representing 50,000 members on a variety of rural issues. He has been a Board Member of the Crown Estate; English Heritage; and the SW Regional Development Agency. He led the SW Board for the 2012 Olympic Games. He has worked in a voluntary capacity with numerous organisations in the region. He has been High Sheriff of Devon and has chaired his local parish meeting for 35 years. He chaired the NSPCC Full Stop Appeal in Devon but now as Lord Lieutenant has an interest in all Devon charities and how they can work together more effectively.