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Four Fields [Hardcover]

Tim Dee
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
RRP: £18.99
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Book Description

29 Aug 2013

In his first book since the acclaimed The Running Sky Tim Dee tells the story of four green fields. Four fields spread around the world: their grasses, their hedges, their birds, their skies, and their natural and human histories. Four real fields - walkable, mappable, man-made, mowable and knowable, but also secretive, mysterious, wild, contested and changing. Four fields - the oldest and simplest and truest measure of what a man needs in life - looked at, thought about, worked in, lived with, written.

Dee's four fields, which he has known for more than twenty years, are the fen field at the bottom of his Cambridgeshire garden, a field in southern Zambia, a prairie field in Little Bighorn, Montana, USA, and a grass meadow in the exclusion zone at Chernobyl, Ukraine. Meditating on these four fields, Dee makes us look anew at where we live and how. He argues that we must attend to what we have made of the wild, to look at and think about the way we have messed things up but also to notice how we have kept going alongside nature, to listen to the conversation we have had with grass and fields.

Four Fields is a profound, lyrical book by one of Britain's very best writers about nature.

Shortlisted for the 2014 Ondaatje Prize

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape (29 Aug 2013)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0224090720
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224090728
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.4 x 4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 257,943 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Heavy with poetic resonance. [Dee] pushes the boundaries of nature writing, creating a form that is lyrical but deeply alert to ecological crisis." (Miriam Darlington BBC Wildlife)

"First-rate evocation of the natural world merges with an elegiac note in these rich stories of the soil." (Independent)

"[Dee's] descriptions are constantly inventive; wry and fearless. A project as expansive, and as mesmerizing, as a fenland sky." (Mary Crockett Scotsman)

"Dee's writing is often quietly poetic, with the spirit of Gerard Manley Hopkins hovering overhead." (Jon Day Daily Telegraph)

"Four Fields is an enthralling and unexpected book - or four short books - about what we have made of the natural world. The language itself is rich and loamy. There is evidence of much thought here, as well as a naturalist's profound observation. It is proof that really, there is no such thing as "nature writing" - Dee gives us the wide world and everything in it, including ourselves and all our works." (Kathleen Jamie Guardian)

Book Description

One of the very best of the new nature writers meditates on the relationship between man and grass by looking at four real fields in four different continents

Shortlisted for the 2014 Ondaatje Prize

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully Written Natural History Book 29 Jun 2014
This is the story of four fields on three different continents; his local field on the Cambridge fens a Zambian field, an America prairie and an abandoned field in Chernobyl in Ukraine.

Each of these locations has a story to tell, not only of the history that permeates them, but of the people that relied on them, the flora and fauna that inhabit them, and how they have been moulded to suit the will of man.

With his local field he describes the way that it changes throughout the seasons. The writing is beautiful and evocative; it almost makes you image in that you are standing alongside as he tells you the things that he is seeing. The fields that he visits abroad are so very different to the fens at home, from the fragile prairie, the wildness of the African farm and the abandonment of the file close to the scene of the nuclear disaster.

Nothing groundbreaking you might think, but with his acute observational skill and his eloquent descriptions of what he sees when he walks around these landscapes, make this a fine natural history book.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A quality read 2 April 2014
By J York
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book came highly recommended and is not disappointing. The poetic prose is packed with anecdote and originality and deserves careful, slow reading. A masterly work of great beauty describing nature and man's interaction with the wild, in just four diverse sites, the Fens, Africa, Chernobyl and Buffalo. A book to treasure.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding (in its field!) 15 May 2014
By Stewart M TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a wonderfully dense, slow moving and thought-provoking book.

In may ways everything else I am going to say will be just an extension of that opening line – if you are in a hurry I recommend you stop reading this and buy the book.

For those of you with a little more time I will expand my comments a little.

Fields are a strange combination of nature and human control – and the fours fields of books title show varying degrees of these two aspects. The Fens fields of East Anglia and the abandoned fields of Chernobyl are mostly, but not entirely, human. The fields of Africa and North America are mostly, but not entirely, still shaped by nature.

The fen fields of East Anglia are returned to in a conventional seasonal approach, but the content of these four chapters goes far beyond the normal “it was winter and I saw this type of bird” narrative that dominates so much nature writing. Water flows through the fens and the movement (and control) of water are central themes in these chapters.

The ideas encountered in the other fields are as divers as their locations – but ideas of control (or the loss of it) are also present.

One of the things I most liked about this book was its clear sense of ending – many books of nature writing seem to stop only when the author runs out of things to say (or the year has turned full circle). Here the book has a wonderful concluding feel, where themes come to an end in a way the feels natural. The book comes to an end, rather than simply stopping.

While it’s clear that the author is a bird watcher – and most of the encounters with wildlife in the book are with birds – this book has a far wider range (field?) of reference than just birds.

This is one of the best books in this general area I have read in a number of years and it comes very highly recommended.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ann Odd Mix 22 Oct 2013
By Dwight Gertz - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is really two books. Tim Dee has exhaustively researched and explored the fens north of Cambridge in the UK. He has a deep feel for this landscape and gives the reader both a clear sense of the literary history of this landscape and a personal relationship that he has with this environment. On the other hand, he tries to contrast this with other places where he is little more than a well read tourist. In particular, I found his writing about Montana to be superficial and the bibliography for this section shows that he didn't invest nearly as much in understanding his surroundings there and their history. He should have partnered with writers who could show the same informed fascination for the fields he is comparing to the fens. All in all, the book is worth it for the parts that show him at his best.
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