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Tarka the Otter (Puffin Modern Classics) Paperback – 29 Jun 1995

23 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Puffin Classics; New Ed edition (29 Jun. 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140366210
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140366211
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.7 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 10,585 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Henry Williamson is regarded by many as Britain's finest nature writer. He was born in London in 1895 but his work is rooted in the north Devon countryside where he went to live after being deeply affected by his experiences in the First World War. He published some fifty books, a mix of country stories, most famously Tarka the Otter and Salar the Salmon, and autobiographical fiction, including the fifteen-volume novel cycle, A Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight. He died in 1977.

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First Sentence
Twilight over meadow and water, the eve-star shining above the hill, and Old Nog the heron crying kra-a-ark! as his slow dark wings carried him down to the estuary. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Wombat on 21 Nov. 2008
Format: Paperback
I remember reading this book when quite young - maybe 9 or so - and being extremely upset by the ending. I have since revisited it as an adult and was struck by what a beautiful book it really is. It is full of joy and wonder, as well as death, sadness and brutality - the latter made even worse by its almost casual nature. It's an exquisite portrait of a vanished time, seen from Tarka's viewpoint.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Stewart M TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 12 Feb. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
From the very start it is clear that this is a book based on hours of observation, of close attention to detail and a keen eye.

The descriptions of the Otter's eye view of the Devon countryside rings very true; the plants, the birds and other animals occur exactly where they should be and the author clearly has a feel for water.

The otters in the book, especially Tarka, seem both real and fantastical at the same time - brave, cunning, highly intelligent and remarkably resolute. Whether this is a true reflection of the biological otter is a matter for debate, but the whole the book feels more believable than mythical.

The story is told in a simple and straight forward manner, and for all that the otters become somewhat humanised the story is far from romantic. The death of the otters at the hands of otter hunters in brutal, and their casual disregard for other living things is clearly shown.

This is a sympathetic portrait of otters and an honest, but not flattering, one of humans.

`Animal stories' of this type do feel rather old fashioned, but the detail of the observation lifts this book above the ordinary.

Recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Bridgey on 13 Sept. 2011
Format: Paperback
Been meaning to read this book for years. Finally got around to it after I saw a copy going cheap.

The novel tells the trials faced by an otter in the Devonshire countryside.

Taka is born 1 of 3 cubs, practically as soon as he is born he begins to recognise the dangers that will dictate and eventually end his life.

The book explores nature and the harshness encountered through both the wild and also mans interference. Nothing is left out or to the imagination. Often harrowing, the story details Tarka's constant battle with the otter hounds, and in particular their fearsome leader Deadlock.

In many ways Williamson's bleak writing of the English countryside reminded me of Cormac Macarthy, in particular the Orchard Keeper.

The only reason I gave this book 4 stars, not 5, is that the local dialect used for various landscape features got a bit tiresome and repetitive.

All in all, a very good read, but also a sad one which causes the reader to reflect on mans wrongful treatment of nature more than any other book I have read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mr. B. J. S. Mitchell on 16 Feb. 2012
Format: Paperback
I remember reading this book when i was young about 7 - 8 years old and after my boss saying that she just recently read it, i decided to re-read it and it brought back so many memories. Its a beautiful book which your imagination can get lost in and you can picture how otters would be.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By The_Bearded_Man on 5 Jan. 2011
Format: Paperback
As a child, the film adaptation of the classic novel had a massive effect on me and ever since it has been an ambition of mine to read the source material. I certainly wasn't disappointed. The book is both stunningly beautiful and brutal, with Williamson not afraid to shy away from certain gory details that were part of life as an Otter living during the early 20th century.

Thankfully, Otters are no longer subjected to such regular persecution but Henry Williamson gives us a captivating historical insight into rural England. A must read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Clare O'Beara TOP 500 REVIEWER on 19 Aug. 2012
Format: Paperback
Tarka is set back in the days when otter hunting was still permitted. While this sounds and was very cruel, we need to remember that at that time people had little or no entertainment and as otter hounds were followed on foot, the poorest in the village could participate. Mainly to them it was just a day out.
Tarka grows and lives in a clear, running river and eats fish, lives in a holt - a hole in the river bank - and plays and grooms himself incessantly. We also see the other creatures around him such as kingfishers and salmon, wildfowl and pike.
Williamson was a naturalist who got his details right and recreated the environment so that we can see how the various factors interact. He used the otter hounds to provide drama and suspense for the reader, and to show us the part the otter played - unwillingly - in the run of village life.
A similar book but easier for the younger reader, is Break for Freedom by Ewan Clarkson, about a mink called Syla who escapes captivity. He also wrote Halik The Grey Seal. Tarka is not for young children as the language is fairly advanced.
Williamson also wrote Salar The Salmon. He admitted himself that it was not easy to read, adding that it had been very difficult to write and chapters were finished at the last minute, not revised before sending to his editor. Salar is worth reading by more advanced readers interested in limnology - the study of rivers and lakes.
Gavin Maxwell wrote Ring of Bright Water about his otter Mijbil in Scotland. However this is not suitable for young readers as the first several long chapters are about Maxwell taking a cottage to clear his mind in order to write up his serious studies of the Marsh Arabs. I struggled through until finally Mij appeared and the book lightened up. But at that age I had very few books. Young readers are better to go for The Otter's Tale, which is the relevant chapters condensed, and later in life if they wish they can go back to the autobiographical version.
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