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Sea Room
Sea Room
by Adam Nicolson
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional, 1 Mar 2011
This review is from: Sea Room (Paperback)
Having sailed past the Shiants on a couple of occasions I was interested to pick up this book on a recent holiday to the Hebrides. It is at once a love letter to the islands, which have been in his family for a number of ears, and an attempt to share them with the wider world. It covers zoology, geology, archaeology, and the recent human history of the islands, all fascinating.

Anyone familiar with Nicholson knows he is an empathic and humble narrator, and these qualities make the book truly exceptional. He agrees with the crofter in the pub on Lewis who tells him that the real owners will always be those who, like him, still graze their sheep on the Shiants' machair without a by-your-leave from Nicholson or any other supposed landowner.

He understands how profiteering by previous landowners laid waste to entire communities, the Shiants included, and has a close relationship with his islands and an empathy with the locals. "No one can own this, no individual, no community," he says. This is travel-writing and autobiography of the best sort.


Crow Country
Crow Country
by Mark Cocker
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars Rich and fascinating, 1 Mar 2011
This review is from: Crow Country (Hardcover)
For me great art reflects some fundamental truth about the human condition, and I feel this book does just that. Part-autobiography, part natural history, Crow Country is a rich and fascinating account of the interface between corvids and humans, and the history and psycho-geography of this relationship.

It is one of the best accounts I have read of the crucial place wildlife can have in human experience and imagination. When I hear the chuckling of the flock of jackdaws that roosts in the old church a mile away from where I live in Kent it conjures up profound feelings of connectedness and harmony in me, and Cocker is at his best as he describes his own feelings and thoughts as he walks the strange and elusive landscapes of the Broads in search of his beloved rooks.

I really love this book and would recommend it to anyone who feels, as the author does, that "natural history can serve as a metaphor for life itself". And for anyone who appreciates great writing and great art.


The Running Sky: A Bird-Watching Life
The Running Sky: A Bird-Watching Life
by Tim Dee
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.99

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Self-indulgent and self-regarding, 1 Mar 2011
I only made the start of the third chapter before hurling it with some force against the wall. The inappropriate adjectives, the redundant metaphors, the flights of fancy!!! Just unbearable, and all too typical of the latest trend in nature and travel writing where tottering towers of self-indulgent verbiage replace intelligence, empathy and observation.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 13, 2013 4:17 PM GMT


A Single Swallow: Following An Epic Journey From South Africa To South Wales
A Single Swallow: Following An Epic Journey From South Africa To South Wales
by Horatio Clare
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.99

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Irritating and lightweight, 20 July 2010
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.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 6, 2011 3:04 PM BST


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