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The Peregrine (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – 15 Feb 2005


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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics (15 Feb 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781590171332
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590171332
  • ASIN: 1590171330
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 1.1 x 20.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 37,259 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description

Review

Not just for twitchers: his style is dynamic, vivid, startling, and so beautiful that you'll read each sentence over and over.

(Country Walking)

A great piece of nature writing that brilliantly evokes the Essex landscape.

(BBC Countryfile)

'John Alex Baker was something of a mystery and not a great deal is known of his private life, ... But few people have gained - and successfully shared - such a deep understanding of a wild animal, and for that Baker will never be forgotten.'

(Fergus Collins BBC Countryfile)

About the Author

J. A. Baker is also the author of The Hill of Summer. He was a native of Essex, England.

Robert Macfarlane is one of Britain's leading writers on nature and landscape. The author of The Wild Places, Original Copy and Mountains of the Mind, he is a Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

63 of 63 people found the following review helpful By A. Foulds on 24 April 2008
Format: Paperback
I haven't ever reviewed anything on Amazon before but felt compelled to seeing that this astonishing book has not yet had one. The Peregrine, written by the reclusive librarian and naturalist J.A.Baker is a unique work, and certainly the best modern prose nature writing I have encountered. It should take its place beside Manley Hopkins notebooks and poems and the poetry of Les Murray and Ted Hughes. It is the last of these is that it most resembles with its intense distillations of natural violence, of planetary process seen in the local and nature seen without romantic overlay, functioning beyond human consciousness. The book consists of a short essay on the natural history of the peregrine falcon followed by an edited diary of days spent watching a few individuals over one winter and spring. There is therefore a repetition of days out watching, dawns and dusks, which becomes deeply hypnotic. Baker eschews any autobiographical writing; it is the inhuman drama of the birds lives that the reader becomes immersed in. He has a facility for metaphor every bit as good as Hughes' and, as in Hughes, the effect produced is of shockingly vivid arrest of the natural world. It is simply some of the best prose I have read.
In short, The Peregrine is unlike anything I have read before, a book that I will continue to live with and quite probably reread once a year. Do not delay before discovering this remarkable work.
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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful By M. Urra on 28 Oct 2008
Format: Paperback
The first time I read this book, it jumped into my list of top five best books ever read. By the third time it was at number one.

The whole thing is lyrical, mesmerising and full of a strong sense of drama. All Baker does is go out and watch the peregrines. The birds exhibit normal bird behaviour: they fly, they hunt, they feed, they rest. Baker's prose infuses this daily ritual with a constant breathless beauty, and it sticks in your mind for ages after you've finished the book. He describes a nightjar's call as "a stream of wine spilling from a height into a deep and booming cask"; an owl's face as "grotesque, as though some lost and shrunken knight had withered to an owl"; the winter, when it arrives, as so cold that "Layers of ice seemed to shatter across my frozen face." Every single sentence in the book is beautiful and deeply affecting. It completely transcends category--it belongs in every library. I only wish there were an audio version so I could listen to it every day as well.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Colin Jervis on 13 May 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Recently I have read birdlife described by birders, a stand up comedian and a prize-winning journo. The beauty of this writing surpasses them as the Golden Jubilee Diamond does cubic zirconia.

It relates the author's obsessive stalking of a peregrine falcon and its mate across the East Anglian countryside. He transforms the insouciant weather, landscape and falcon into interlocking metaphors of each other.

The falcons soar and stoop over their territory, their progress tracked by the clouds of birds that burst up as they pass. Sometimes foolhardy crows, jays and blackbirds pursue them, but they are dropped by the disdainful wing flicks of this the world's fastest creature.

At times the descriptions of savagery are simultaneously beautiful and breathtakingly visceral. Almost every paragraph contains a gem in a carefully crafted setting:

"...The kingfisher shone in mud at the river's edge, like a brilliant eye. He was tattered with blood, stained with the blood red colour of his stumpy legs that were stiff and red as sticks of sealing wax, cold in the lapping ripple of the river. He was like a dead star, whose green and turquoise light still glimmers down through the long light years."

A book to be read slowly and enjoyed with full visualisation.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Prish Hackman on 11 Nov 2009
Format: Paperback
Here are 190 pages of some of the most beautifully
descriptive writing I have ever encountered.
The writer's use of adjectives is never over
the top and even though he's describing his
subject again and again and the landscapes
around, it is different every time. This book
really captivated me. I was made to feel in direct
contact of everything I love most through someone
else's vision.
This book was just wonderful to read. I highly
recommend it.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By wordparty on 24 Jan 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
probably, as they say, the best book about the mystery and fascination of birds ever written.

i read this first years ago, and then read it again as soon as i got to the end, and certain phrases burned themselves into my brain and i have never forgotten them.

j.a.baker., an enigma in himself, followed wintering peregrines in the flat coastlands of essex, england, recording his sightings and revelations of the falcons - and all the other birds around - in diary form, his phrases vivid and stamped with newness.

as he "hunts" them, he becomes as wary as they are of other humans and finds himself taking on certain characteristics of the thing he pursues, and gradually becomes almost, almost, accepted by the fierce wild birds, or at least tolerated, as a bond grows strong between hunter and hunted.

the writing of this, the first of his only two books, is quite brilliant, as is his empathy with the natural world, so persecuted by man.

"i have always longed to be part of the outward life, to be out there at the edge of things..." j.a.baker writes in the preface.
and he achieves that in the book, bringing back to us what he found "out there."

it is an intense, visionary kind of book, extremely dramatic.

once read, never forgotten.
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