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Crow Country [Hardcover]

Mark Cocker
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

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Book Description

2 Aug 2007
Rooks and jackdaws are both members of the same bird family. To ornithologists the group is known as the corvids, to the layperson they are 'crows'. But to the Mark Cocker these two species have become a fixation and a way of life. When he moved with his family to a rundown cottage in the Norfolk Broads he acquired first a naturalist's perfect home in the countryside, then the keys to a secret landscape. Twice a day flight-lines of rooks and jackdaws pass over the house on their way to a roost in the Yare Valley. Following them down to the river one winter's night, the author discovered a roiling, deafening flock of birds which rises at its peak to 40,000. From the moment he watched the multitudes blossom as a mysterious dark flower above the night woods, these gloriously commonplace birds were unsheathed entirely from their ordinariness. Cocker goes in search of them, journeying from the cavernous, deadened heartland of South England to the hills of Dumfriesshire, experiencing spectacular failures alongside magical successes and epiphanies. Step by step he pieces together the complexities of the birds' inner lives, the historical depth of the British relationship with the rook and the unforeseen richness hidden in that sombre voice, a raucous crow song that he calls 'our landscape made audible'. "Crow Country" is a prose poem in a long tradition of English pastoral writing. It is also a celebration of the Norfolk countryside, of its oceanic flatness, its immense skies and of the human intimacies which have shaped it from generation to generation. Yet the book is also a powerful restatement of the central importance of nature in human affairs. It asks us to recall that "Crow Country" is not 'ours'. It's a landscape which we cohabit with thousands of other species and is all the richer for these complex fellowships.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape Ltd (2 Aug 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224076019
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224076012
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.6 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 60,225 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


`You really must read' -- Sunday Times

'An enjoyable balance between expert knowledge and widely accessible appeal.' -- Metro

'It coins a new word for a new enthusiasm - corvophile'
-- Guardian

'Cocker discovers the real secrets of the natural order in the dawn-dusk processions of the rook when they fill the sky.' -- Stuart Winter, Sunday Express

'Cocker injects a fresh poetic sense into our hiterto poor
appreciation of this very British bird' -- Sunday Telegraph

'Cocker is a beautiful writer' -- Daily Telegraph

'Cocker is as good a naturalist as he is prose-poet - which means
Crow Country has authority as well as charm'
-- Guardian

'It's a book that makes you look differently at something common,
it raises the hope that there is a wisdom and beauty to crows' -- The Sunday Times Culture

A thoughtful and brilliantly executed celebration of countryside and the importance of nature in human affairs.
-- The Independent

`It is [Cocker's] own immediate, joyful response to nature that
gives the book its vividness and power.'
-- The Times

About the Author

Mark Cocker is one of Britain's foremost writers on nature and contributes regularly to the Guardian, the Times Literary Supplement, as well as BBC Radio. His seven books, including the universally acclaimed Birds Britannica (with Richard Mabey), deal with modern responses to wilderness, whether found in landscape, human societies or in other species. His most recent work is a selection of writings over the last two decades, A Tiger in the Sand. He has travelled the world in search of wildlife and won a Winston Churchill Travel Fellowship to study the cultural importance of birds in West Africa.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply glorious 29 Feb 2008
Crow Country isn't just a profile of this very British bird, it's also a philosophy, a biography, an investigation and a wonderfully lyrical description of the British countryside. The subtitle "A meditation on birds, landscape and nature" is a perfect summary of this glorious slim volume: 192 pages of sheer joy. From the wonderful opening chapter where Mark Cocker almost literally paints with words the evening gathering of corvids in his local fields, I was totally wrapped up in this passionate and beautifully written book. The blurb describes this as a "prose poem". Too right. For me, this is one of the all-time great books on British natural history.
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134 of 139 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Something to crow about 2 Aug 2007
By russell clarke TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
I was interested in birds once , even going as far as to spend my hard earned paper round money on a very expensive "Book Of British Birds"( which I still have, the book that is , not the paper round) , but then I became more interested in the flirtatious human kind and that was the end of that . So reading a book about the corvid family of birds -a family that includes crows, rooks, jackdaws , ravens, jays , choughs, magpies- wasn't the examination it might have been. It helps greatly that Mark Cocker strikes a vivid balance between his expert knowledge and accessibility.
Cocker is a committed naturalist, spending hours standing around in the flatlands near his Norfolk home waiting to catch glimpses of birds that many of us probably see , and take for granted every day of our lives. He admits this is bizarre but he is not just looking for individual birds or mating pairs but ostensibly for flocks .His writing about these masses of birds at dusk as they head off to roost is almost poetic and it's this literacy that also makes Crow Country such an enjoyable read. Entranced by a gathering of birds in the night sky Like "a gyroscope of tightly packed fish roiling and twisted by the tide" he surmises that their power over him is to "act like ink -blot tests drawing out of (his ) unconscious ".
Cocker then intersperses elements of autobiography and sociology into the narrative as he contrasts a birds migration with the human turmoil of moving house even going as far as to compare his recent upheaval from inner city Norwich to the Yare valley to a bird migration , driven by instinct- which will come as a surprise to Kirsty Allsop , a good thing I think.
This book though is not just set in Norfolk and is all the richer and more fascinating for it .
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85 of 89 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A convocation of crows. 1 Aug 2007
This insight into the life of crows and the ways in which they have always impinged on human existence, is both fascinating and lyrical. The author betrays his affection for these intelligent birds on every page of this beautiful book.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Yes, it really is that good! 21 April 2008
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I'm not a bird watcher but as an outdoor person I've often been camping around ravens and crows. This book is absolutely fabulous, chronicling Mark Cocker's move to rural Norfolk and his growing fascination with ravens. There are some wonderfully evocative descriptions of landscape and locality. The technical investigation of the crows creeps up on you and you really do find yourself reading some detailed stuff about crows and being completely engrossed by it all.

A fabulous book.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very good book with one reservation. 13 May 2008
I echo what others have said about the quality of this book. It is indeed a good piece of writing and the only reservation I have - and it is somewhat tentative - is that there is perhaps too much about the writer and not enough about the crows and rooks. Put briefly, next time there could be more Corvids and less Cocker. As an aside I would say you learn as much if not more about rooks and crows in the late Roger Deakin's book, "Wildwood" (2007).
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5.0 out of 5 stars Crow Country 12 May 2013
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A wonderfully imaginative and poetic account of a passionate naturalist. It had made me take notice of rookeries and all thing Corvid
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