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Timothy's Book: Notes of an English Country Tortoise [Hardcover]

Verlyn Klinkenborg
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

12 Oct 2006
Timothy, a watchful and eloquent tortoise, has spent 40 years living in the Hampshire village of Selborne. Whilst the village is the occasional subject for the study of his host, Gilbert White, Timothy is also inclined to study. This book portrays the world of man and beast, as seen from beneath Timothy's shell.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Portobello Books Ltd (12 Oct 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846270545
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846270543
  • Product Dimensions: 17.4 x 11.8 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 591,346 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


' is droll and disarming, and packed with meditations on
memory, the weather and solitude.' -- Daily Mail, 13 October 2006

'This tortoise-eyed view of a treat to read.' -- Financial Times (Weekend)

'You'll put it down convinced of the virtues of patience and life
in the slow lane.' -- Daily Mail, 13 October 2006

...a book I read with great delight...beautifully observed and pure magic. -- Sue Baker, Publishing News

Brilliant and audacious
-- Richard Mabey, author of Nature Cure

brilliant and audacious -- Richard Mabey, author of Nature Cure

glorious...Timothy's judicious comments on the human species
charmingly mirror his owner's on the natural world
-- Salley Vickers, Observer "Books of The Year 2006"

About the Author

VERLYN KLINKENBORG is the author of three previous books: Making Hay, The Last Fine Time and The Rural Life. He is on the editorial board of the New York Times, and he lives on a farm in upstate New York with his wife. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tortoise's-eye view of the world 6 Sep 2006
This elegant little novel is narrated from the point of view of Gilbert White of Selborne's pet tortoise, Timothy. For White, the great 18th-century British naturalist, Timothy was both an object of warm domestic affection and cool scientific observation, but for Timothy - at least according to the fictional version presented here - White and most of the other humans encountered by the venerable creature continually misunderstood and misrepresented him; so here, in his own book, Timothy gets to set the record straight, and offer the tortoise's-eye view of the world. He is, for example, continually surprised at humanity's lack of a fitting home (in contrast to his own snug shell): 'Great soft tottering beasts. Houses never by when they need them. Even the humblest villagers live in ill-fitting houses. The greater the personage the worse the fit', and he is eloquent on the subject of the dreamy pleasures of hibernation ('Earth beneath me throbs with warmth. Cold black sky presses down. Current of memory tugs at me...')

The danger of a fictional device such as having a tortoise for a narrator is that it could come to seem whimsical over the course of an entire novel, but the way that the author slyly reverses the sometimes arrogant human observation of the natural world, to present nature's view of humanity, is wonderfully done, and in the end Klingenborg succeeds in creating not only a sympathetic historical character, with a voice and personality all his own, but a powerful ecological fable for our times.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful read 7 Jan 2007
By Nicky
Having just- in the past five minues- finished reading this book, I thought it important to let others know what a charming book this is.

Looking through the eyes of Timothy- Gilbert White's tortoise, we see a different perception of Selbourne so widely recounted through Gilbert White's own writing. This book ran the risk of coming across as twee and sickly, but the book is written sensitively and with great understanding and admiration for Timothy the tortoise.

Timothy notes the behaviours of those living in Selbourne and others who enter his life- just as Gibert White observed the behaviour of the flora and fauna around him. You can not help but empathise with this creature who sees things with humour, honesty and respect and highlights the differences between him and many of the villagers.

This book is written beautifully and allows the reader to stop and really reflect on the world in which Timothy lived- a far cry from his natural habitat, and reflect also on why it was thought acceptable and such a spectacle to remove an animal from this and move him to a village in Hampshire. There are thought provoking ethical strands running through this book and I found it easy to engage with these throughout.

I highly recommend this book and I defy anyone to not have admiration for such an incredible species once reading it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Timothy*s Book 29 Jan 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I like this book very much, You do need to be interested in natural history to really enjoy it. I wish I had read Gilbert Whites book first.
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0 of 5 people found the following review helpful
We read this book for our book club and it got a near-unanimous thumbs-down. Dull, dull, dull.
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