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67 of 68 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful and life-affirming
Corvus is an enchanting book. There is no sentimentality here - indeed, Esther Woolfson goes to rigorous lengths to avoid anthropomorphism - and yet the entire book is infused with warmth, charm and humanity, whilst the birds themselves - very much the stars of the piece - are quite wonderful. The episodic narrative, charting the author's own journey of avian experience...
Published on 9 Nov 2008 by ashropshirelad

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Different Read
Some very interesting facts included and interesting to hear how someone devotes their life to birds and sees the positive side of magpies!! I read this with a book club and would never have chosen it myself. I found chapter 10 rather boring and never really got back into the book after that. give it a go!
Published 7 months ago by Dancing Queen


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67 of 68 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful and life-affirming, 9 Nov 2008
By 
Corvus is an enchanting book. There is no sentimentality here - indeed, Esther Woolfson goes to rigorous lengths to avoid anthropomorphism - and yet the entire book is infused with warmth, charm and humanity, whilst the birds themselves - very much the stars of the piece - are quite wonderful. The episodic narrative, charting the author's own journey of avian experience and discovery - punctuated by digressions on topics such as birds in folklore, bird physiology, bird evolution, bird flight and bird song - is completely compelling: I could barely put it down. The expositions themselves are equally interesting, hugely informed and informing, but never daunting. Beautifully written, the prose is spare but elegant, seemingly almost taking on the metre of bird song itself. Other significant themes also run, almost imperceptibly, through the book: the art of 'seeing' and observation, the scientific method, the idea of 'North', the comfort of home and family. This is not a 'heavy' book - it first came to my attention through hearing a very brief extract on (BBC) Radio 4 - but there is great sensitivity and wisdom here. If you've ever stood at a window or sat on a bench and watched a bird walk or hop or feed or fly, then Corvus will almost certainly enrich your life and provide a fresh, new perspective the next time you see a rook, crow, magpie or one of their feathered relations. A joy from cover to cover.
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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant writing - subtle and effective, 18 Sep 2008
By 
D. M. Purkiss "Diane" (Oxford, England) - See all my reviews
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Maybe Robert Macfarlane and Jay Griffiths should be forced to read this book, because without a single overdressed metaphor, without a single unnecessary word of any kind, it tells a series of subtle, clear and profoundly moving stories. It's a delight to meet Spike, and Chicken, and the other birds who soar and wing through the pages, the rhythmical, shapely pages. Envy! I wish I'd written this. Observation wonderful. Interesting that birds are so despised. I read this because having kept chickens I've also come to know and feed jackdaws and rooks, and all three kinds of bird are so bright and so interesting that I simply can't see why we once despised them. I shall read the sequel, if any.
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56 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny, informative, a must buy!!!, 21 Aug 2008
By 
The main theme of Corvus is the story of a baby rook owned by the autor but it also concerns broader subjects such as natural history and wild birds.

The parts about Woolfsons pet birds are a funny and touching potrait of a family and their pets, a little remeniscent of "my family and other animals".

The parts about natural history are more serious and require concentration but well worth it particularly the parts discussing birds relationship to dinosaurs.

I really loved this and hope that Esther Woolfson writes more of the same.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enchanting and informative, 7 Jan 2011
This review is from: Corvus: A Life with Birds (Paperback)
This is a great read and a must for all slightly geeky, warm-hearted nature lovers. Although I'm already a keen birdwatcher, my eyes were opened to the intriguing world of these often maligned but undeniably splendid and intelligent birds. Esther Woolfson provides a lovely mixture of corvid science, ecology and folklore alongside her personal experiences and anecdotes of sharing her home with various birds including a rook (Chicken) and a magpie (Spike). I found this blend of fact and fiction very well balanced. At a stroke I was learning details of corvid social behaviour and brain power, alongside stories of superstition and myth.

But what really made it for me were the relationships between Esther and the helpless infant corvids that, having fallen from their family nests, she took in and raised in her home in Aberdeen. Nurturing and living with Chicken and Spike gave Esther an unprecedented opportunity to study corvid behaviour. Her love and care of these birds is evident, as is her awareness and respect for them as wild and highly independent-minded creatures. The description of the greeting ritual between the author and Chicken each morning is very touching - how many people do you know who've had the priviledge of bowing and greeting a adult female rook at the bottom of their stairs each morning?!!

I hope others enjoy Corvus as much as I did.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delightfully humorous and touching, 4 Jan 2014
By 
Jood (UK) - See all my reviews
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This is a delightfully humorous and touching account of a life shared with birds. Okay, you might think, nothing so extraordinary about that, but these birds are not your common-or-garden budgies-in-a cage. It all started when Esther Woolfson took on a small flock of doves and became fascinated by them; eventually she gained a reputation as someone who knew about birds and when a tiny, almost bald, rook was brought to her what could she do but take her in. And so began her life with Chicken, who is later joined by Spike the magpie and various other feathered people. Her whole family become involved and quickly come to love these feathered additions to the household.

It is difficult not to become involved with the antics of these birds as they enjoy the run of the house. They have distinct personalities, and although the author is at pains not to humanise these wonderful creatures, one can't help but become immersed in this household. There are chapters about birds in folklore, birdsong, bird physiology all of which are interesting and quite different in tone, and it's obvious the author knows her stuff, and when she doesn't she knows how to do her research, which was certainly the case when it came to feeding tiny birds of different breeds.

The author explains her dilemma in having these essentially wild birds in her home, living what is an unnatural life. What would have happened to them had she not taken them in? Had they survived - which is doubtful as they had fallen out of their nests - they would almost certainly have been able to fly, nest and breed in the wild, albeit with a much shorter life. However living in the confines of a house they seem to have enjoyed a happy life, and we, through the pages of this book, are able to learn more about these wonderful corvids. I've always loved watching wild birds - I'm no twitcher, but I now find myself eagerly awaiting the daily arrival of a couple of magpies on my lawn - they see me first, I know, because no sooner is the food put down than they're there. They are fascinating to watch as they strut around. proudly showing off their black and white dinner suits. Wonderful.

An enchanting read for anyone interested in nature in general and wild birds in particular.

This review is for the paperback version - not the Kndle version.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An enchanting book full of profound insights and also very funny, 4 July 2011
By 
Hywel James "Hywel James" (Devon, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Corvus: A Life with Birds (Paperback)
Esther Woolfson's "Corvus: a life with birds" is an enchanting book. The vast majority of readers have praised it very highly indeed and I will simply add that, in addition to its scrupulous observation of the birds with whom Woolfson has shared her home, she offers many wonderful insights into the science of these creatures - the fruit of much wide reading. She also explores the relationship between ourselves and the world we share with other living creatures such as birds. In particular she addresses what Emile Durkheim characterised as the Other, those non-human creatures whose consciousness we are acutely aware of, yet cannot directly confront in the way we can our own kind. Her observations in this respect are deeply profound and often moving. Finally I would draw attention to the humour in the book. Woolfson is no nerd. I laughed out loud at her descriptions of the demands the rook and the magpie made upon her and the lengths she went to meet them.

A great book and beautifully written.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderful,beautiful book., 26 May 2010
This review is from: Corvus: A Life with Birds (Paperback)
Oh I absolutely loved this book.Esther Woolfson writes so beautifully and with such elegance and grace.The stories of her birds and their place in the family are gripping and funny but I don't think you even need to like birds much to enjoy this book.Anyone will finish it with a new respect for corvids and a different perspective as you spot them anew all around us.I read this,loved it,bought it for five or six people and lent it to several others and everyone has enjoyed it enormously.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rooks rule - ok?, 27 Oct 2008
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A marvellous, magical book. I can't recommend it highly enough. Written with such intelligence, open mindedness and sensitivity. (I can only add that when i happened upon two rooks today in town, I spent some time standing there chatting to them - probably looking extremely silly, particularly to the birds themselves - but I could hardly pass them by without a word: it would have been most ill mannered.) This book delighted me and at one point made me cry. I send my warmest regards both to the author and to dear Chicken, with all good wishes for her longevity and very good health.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting account of life with rook, magpie and crow, 8 Oct 2011
By 
Paul Bowes (Wales, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Corvus: A Life with Birds (Paperback)
'Corvus' is Esther Woolfson's account of living with birds - in particular, with three foundling corvids: a rook, a magpie, and, at the very end of the book, a crow. Birds of other kinds also make their appearances; but Woolfson's focus is on these three intelligent, characterful individuals.

Woolfson is not a naturalist by profession. Her story is that of a human family living with members of a different species in an unusually integrated way. The birds live in her house in Aberdeen and are in effect domestic partners and companions, as cats or dogs would be in another household. Around the events of their lives Woolfson weaves an unhurried meditation on our relationship with birds that never forgets that they are not human, but allows for observation of their capacity for interacting with humans that a more scientific perspective might dismiss. The mixture of anecdote and information keeps the narrative moving, and the author has an engaging style that sometimes seems to verge on something more serious but never becomes portentous.

I read the book because I am interested in corvids. It is not - and does not try to be - a scientific reference; it offers instead the perspective of a bird lover who has lived with corvids for extended periods of time, and captures very well the enduring fascination of these birds.

The twenty or so black-and-white illustrations add relatively little to the book. There is a useful bibliography.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Corvus, 5 Dec 2010
This review is from: Corvus: A Life with Birds (Paperback)
Highly enjoyable book, the author makes her accounts both intimate and informative. Great mix of observation, humour and science. I'm happy to recommend it to any fellow nature lover.
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Corvus: A Life with Birds
Corvus: A Life with Birds by Esther Woolfson (Paperback - 1 Jun 2009)
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