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Customer Review

65 of 69 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Running Away!, 13 Jan. 2010
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This review is from: The Running Sky: A Birdwatching Life (Hardcover)
On a browse through Amazon I chanced upon this book. It seemed something that would interest me as birdwatching is my number 1 hobby and it had (at the time) three 5* ratings - must be good then?

My overwhelming feeling is 'thank goodness I finished this book and managed not to give up on it'. I found it really boring. On the back Susannah Clapp says 'Those who love birds will love this book and envy Tim Dee for both the many adventures his year contained and the grace with which he describes them'.

Well apart from going to Zambia I don't really recall he did much adventuring, and certainly pages and pages about Redstarts isn't exactly an out of this world experience for the reader, well not for me.

Tim Dee is obviously a bright perhaps intellectual guy, far more than me and I am happy to put my hand up and say that perhaps that's why I didn't connect with it, I am too thick. But I am fairly well read and I think masterpieces are those that engage the reader in an enticing way not a flowery over written imagery one - and this is what really got on my nerves. Seldom does a paragraph pass without some simile of overwrought emotion or over description e.g.

'I walked through the fen waiting for it to get darker. The day was reluctant to finish. Two common terns made last flights above the reedy mere white as ice cubes against the green. In a hedge along a dyke, bullfinches piped their embarrassed music, their soft calls of bloodied regret escaping over their blood red breasts.' (Well for a start their breast are pink not red)

He goes off to see a Starling roost (millions of birds) nothing wrong with that. When he gets back he writes down 35 things that remind him of Starlings (4 pages) from Bertolt Brecht to Laurence Styerne to Coleridge to Yeats and John Clare (whom he is obsessed with). It is not really what reminds me of Starlings more like let me show off how much I know.

I imagined going birdwatching with him and decided that you just couldn't walk 2 yards without some literary quote. Look it's a Skylark, (ah yes Shelley said...) it's a Carrion Crow (ah yes Shakespeare) shall we go in this hut (ah yes it reminds me of a Canaletto) - arrrggghhhh!

In an excellent example of 'less is more' he waxes lyrically about the plumage of a Nightjar (nothing wrong in that, lovely birds) and then compares them to moths - okay....and then mentions that moths have interesting names and illustrates this with not, say, two or three, but 47 names - please!!

One bit that did make me laugh, was when he described meeting Peter Scott. He had won a competition and the great man was presenting the prizes. Tim says 'I disliked his paintings they seemed catastrophically lurid - it was always dawn or dusk with wild purple skies doing far too much...' - sounds like his own prose to me, doing far too much, or perhaps trying to do far too much.

I feel guilty only giving this 3*s after the other reviews although in truth I 'ummed' and 'ahhed' whether to give it two.If you are looking for a book that will take you out birdwatching then read, Alex Horne, Bill Oddie, Mark Cocker or (and I recommend this highly) Charlie Elder's 'While flocks last'. If however you want some over written prose with tons and tons of imagery about birds and more famous authors' quotes than you can shake a stick at then this is for you.

And finally, something that always irritates me, there's some nasty typos in it, but nice cover I must say.
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Showing 1-10 of 10 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 25 Feb 2010 22:12:11 GMT
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on 7 Mar 2010 18:52:57 GMT
Rob Sawyer says:
Thanks for that intelligent comment, Amazon are aware of your literary brilliance

Posted on 12 Jun 2010 20:31:20 BDT
Matt says:
I think you have beautifully expressed my feeling about the book; I'm just surprised that you gave it three stars and not lower!

In reply to an earlier post on 15 Jun 2010 19:41:40 BDT
Rob Sawyer says:
It was a tough decision for a moron ;-)

Posted on 24 Sep 2010 11:54:39 BDT
Imrahil says:
Good, honest review. Thanks

Posted on 24 Sep 2010 19:58:37 BDT
Last edited by the author on 24 Sep 2010 19:59:09 BDT
Matt says:
I know I've commented on your review before but I just stumbled about a comment about H.P. Lovecraft that seemed relevant. Now, Lovecraft is one of my favourite writers, but the accusation, "He never met an adjective he didn't like" seems to apply equally well to Mr. Dee!

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Oct 2010 16:37:52 BDT
Rob Sawyer says:
I think I would buy Tim Dee a beer if I ever met him though - he'd probably be able to drag a quote up from Shakespeare about it!

Imrahil - thanks for writing that, I appreciate it

Posted on 9 Oct 2011 16:42:16 BDT
Carol says:
I remember reading this review before and it must've put me off this book then because I didn't get it. I completely forgot about it, and ended up back here again after seeing it coming up on my recommendations. However, I ~did~ get Charlie Elder's book (after having seen something about it on the telly) and I think it's fab, so I trust your judgement - thanks! (Hmm, I've got Bill Oddie and Mark Cocker books - better check out Alex Horne....)

In reply to an earlier post on 10 Oct 2011 22:59:48 BDT
Rob Sawyer says:
Well C R Tresadern (and others) as they say if you can't beat then them join them, and in Spring 2012 my own birdwatching book will be published - be sure to look out for it and then Tim Dee et al can rip me to bits too!

In reply to an earlier post on 13 Feb 2013 16:22:38 GMT
Rob Sawyer says:
My own book about birdwatching eventually got published, it's called Birduder 344 and is available on here - not quite in Tim Dee's intellectual style more birds and beer really - comedy birdwatching at its best!
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Location: Hampshire UK

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