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A Single Swallow: Following An Epic Journey From South Africa To South Wales Hardcover – 2 Apr 2009


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Chatto & Windus; First Edition edition (2 April 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0701183128
  • ISBN-13: 978-0701183127
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 3.2 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 390,894 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"His eye for detail and his elegant pen give flavour of each country he crosses" -- The Economist

'Fine lyrical writing and a gift for inventive, unexpected metaphor. A brave, modern, multicultural and open-hearted approach to travel itself' -- Guardian

`A gifted and lyrical travel writer, good at making contact with all sorts of people. A sensitive and intelligent observer' -- Financial Times

`Clare has produced an enthusiastic, often elegiac, chronicle of his encounters with the swallows' -- Sunday Times

`Fizzingly entertaining. Daring, sharp-edged, fast-moving, graceful, full of surprises. A great adventure, thrillingly realised' -- Literary Review

`He pays tribute to the extraordinary migratory journeys of the swallow. A book that combines travel with natural history'. -- Metro

`Travel writing at its very best, is enthralling, passionate, hair-raising, quirky, hilarious, informative, and utterly, utterly brilliant... irresistible stuff.' -- Daily Mail, Val Hennessy

`writes with an easy lyricism and in vivid detail' -- Independent

Review

`Clare has produced an enthusiastic, often elegiac, chronicle of his encounters with the swallows'

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By epupafalls on 28 Aug. 2009
Format: Hardcover
A modern day Laurie Lee - but with more grit and honesty. A Single Swallow is many things - part natural history, part journalism, part autobiography. There is spiritual observation and thought, there is romance and there is of course history and geography. The portrait of West Africa is dark, shocking, humorous and beautiful. Clare's ability to be both personal and objective in how he writes and observes, aided by his phemomenal and rhythmic prose, are winning ingredients in this quite brilliant book.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Faye on 1 Jun. 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a wonderful account of the journey of a swallow throughout its migration. I am completely in awe of how this little bird can fly so far. All the countries it flies over and to are discussed in a brilliant narrative. Buy it! Then next time you see a swallow arrive in the spring imagine its journey and be amazed.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Stewart M TOP 500 REVIEWER on 12 Aug. 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Swallows have been loved, mythologised and studied by almost all human cultures where they are found. However, it has only been in recent years that the true magnitude of their journey has been understood. From their non-breeding grounds in southern Africa to the summer of the north, where they breed, the journey of the swallow is truly remarkable.

Swallows (technically Barn Swallows) have nested on and in the buildings of the author's Welsh farm for years and when they return in the summer "his swallows" have flown from South Africa back to the farm in about one month. The author's journey takes more or less the same path, and the same time - from South Africa back to his Welsh routes in about one month.

The journey of the Swallows is beset with dangers and random encounters, and along the way they may acquire a mate, survive by good luck rather than skill and find food wherever they can. This is a style of travel embraced by the author, and the book is based not only on the flight path that the Swallows take, but also the people he meets along the way. If the swallows fly from habitat to habitat on the way to Wales to breed, the author moves from relationship to relationship until he too finds his way home to Wales.

Throughout this splendid book there are gems to be found, trains with fewer doors than doorways, the idea that he is not travelling north, but staying in Spring as the world turns, that as we retreat into our world of ear-phoned tunes that only shared music left in Europe is the sound of traffic and that peculiar conceit that there is a fundamental difference between "travel" and "tourism". Each of these short sections would be a high point in any other book, but here they occur regularly.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Oska on 4 Jun. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An excellent book following the exploits of the author's tortuous journey in pursuit of swallows migrating, with a totally unexpected twist.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Peter Amps on 21 Feb. 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
very good writing about Africa not that much about swallows but never the less an interesting read
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Paul F. Stevens on 7 Dec. 2010
Format: Paperback
From the moment you open the book, the reader is touched with the sensitivity and genuine warmth of the writer, who offers the reader an opportunity to almost be a part of the journey and to experience the adventure as if he was the character himself.

A lovely and interesting read, I couldnt put it down, Horatio's research and descriptive skill is wonderful.

A journey through Africa and an education in Birdwatching as well as an insight into an enthralling subject.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Alan on 20 July 2010
Format: Paperback
What a disappointing book after the author's excellent Running for the Hills.

These kinds of travel books need a hook, and superficially the idea of following the swallow's migration from South Africa to Britain is a good one, but what lightweight execution! The author can't be bothered to get the right visas or sort out a viable continuous route across the African continent before his departure so has to interrupt his journey with flights in and out of the swallow's migration route on the way, which rather punctures any narrative flow.

Some of the journey, for example across Namibia, CongoBrazzaville and Cameroon, is interesting and occasionally funny, which makes the rest so much more disappointing.

The overall impression given is that of a barely-travelled gap-year student mooncalf, full of wide-eyed admiration for all things African and Arab while contemptuous of everything white and Western. The naivety and self-indulgence become tiresome very early on, and by the time the author has a hissy fit in Gibraltar, throwing his notebooks into the sea in some kind of Road to Damascus revelation about the evils of his European birthright, this particular reader was ready to call it a day.

An irritating and superficial travel book that taught me little about swallows I didn't already know and (with a couple of exceptions) even less about the countries the author travelled through.
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Peter Collins on 12 Oct. 2010
Format: Paperback
Very disappointed with this book as I had high expectations of a good read. Instead of Swallows and descriptions of their epic journey from South Africa to UK I had to read a book about the travels and encounters of a angst-ridden individual who drooled sycophantically over every black African he met yet treated every white African as the devil incarnate.

I am a ravenous reader and this is he only book in the last few years that I have given up on. Good luck.
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