The Beauty in the Beast: Britain's Favourite Creatures and the People Who Love Them Hardcover – 26 Apr 2012
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'A delightful, funny and enlightening read. I can't think of a more enjoyable way to be reminded that we don't need to travel the world to find amazing animals: the exotic and the surprising are right here on our doorsteps' --Gavin Pretor-Pinney, author of 'The Cloudspotter's Guide'
That s typical of Hugh Warwick s lovely, easy, humorous style. His book works on so many levels: as a portrait of British eccentricity, as an informal, highly selective guide to our native fauna, and quietly but angrily, as a polemic on the destruction of habitat and on the terrible mess we have made of our countryside. --Daily Mail
A few years ago, Hugh Warwick achieved a modest success with 'A Prickly Affair', a charming if slightly batty book about hedgehogs and people who like hedgehogs. With 'The Beauty in the Beast', he expands this basic idea to take on 15 wild creatures and their experts people who have taken 'one or two steps outside the bounds of what most people consider normal'. He hopes they will convince him 'of the beauty locked away within their chosen beasts , whether bats or dolphins' --The Independent
About the Author
Hugh Warwick is an environmental writer and photographer whose work has appeared across print media from BBC Wildlife and New Scientist to the Daily Telegraph - for whom he was unofficially hedgehog correspondent for a while - to radio documentaries for BBC Radio 4 and his appearance as the 'Eco-Worrier' on Fred McAuley's Radio Scotland show. He was also the field producer on Robert Greenwald's film 'Walmart: The High Cost of Low Price'. Hugh has studied hedgehogs, off and on, for over 20 years, and has most recently been responsible for stopping the great hedgehog massacre of Uist in the Outer Hebrides.
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Top customer reviews
What I have read has been very interesting and puts over well each person's love of their particular animal, and why they are so passionate about it. It's a hard book to put down really, but I make myself leave it for a while and this increases my appetite!
As well as being highly entertained we learn a huge amount of fascinating facts on each animal. Warwick explains that the gorgeous fur of long-eared bats is velvet to the touch, and that they purr when stroked. We learn that because of their bright, gem-like eyes, people believed that toads had a jewel embedded in their brain. We learn that otter poo, as well as being full of fish bones, smells like perfume.
I couldn't put the book down. Warwick's delightful enthusiasm not only for the animal experts but also their beloved species is infectious: "I suffer with a surfeit of empathy for both nature and humanity," he admits towards the end of the book. "What I have learned.." he concludes, "is that by applying ourselves to just one aspect of the beautiful and alarmingly fragile diversity of the natural world, we can learn to love not just a single species, but the entire web of life that sustains it and us."
As with all of the best comedy, there are some deeply touching and resonantly serious moments. Warwick also has a warning: "Seeing more deeply and falling in love both come with risks. The pain we experience as a result can be as immense as the pleasure. 'The stabbing pain of love's awakening' to quote Mahler's 'Song of the Earth' , is joined with the fear of loss."
Having read this book I wanted to shout with joy. It's a map showing us the way to come home to the things we love, and in this time of ecological crisis a call to action. We all need a species to love, be it ant, adder, beaver or bat: "Let us all take the risk of becoming attached to something out there," Warwick ends: "See deeply, open up your senses, become aware of the interconnectedness of life, and risk falling in love."
From the start Warwick set himself the task of finding a favourite from amongst his list of encounters. I won't give away which species Warwick chooses for his new tattoo at the end, but when the decision finally comes it is unexpected and moving.
I recommend this to anyone who loves animals. Buy it for all your friends, it will make a superb, heart-lifting gift.
Having said that in many ways it's a book about people - there's lots of quirky humour about the characters who get obsessed with specific animals, often obscure ones (and the author isn't afraid to poke fun at his own hedgehog-fixation / midlife crisis survival strategies.) Good use of a tenner, in my view.
It's Hugh's curiosity about the animals (yes and the reptiles/insects etc), and their human champions that makes this book captivating reading. There will be some people you KNOW should read this book. But it is also a fabulous gift for the tricky people in your life who you want to give something marvellous, but somehow always end up with socks or soap. Not any more - they can have "The Beauty in the Beast".
Looking through the table of contents, I have to admit that I was biased as to which animals I'd enjoy reading about, and which would leave me indifferent. However, as Warwick and his ambassadors shattered my preconceptions one by one, I discovered affinities that I never would have imagined.
But behind the congenial tone and (mostly-) cute animal profiles lies a powerful environmental message, which is that if we open up to these creatures, if we let them seduce us then nature will become less anonymous and we will feel compelled to fight for it's preservation - for the sake of the creatures, and our own.
If you're looking for a high-spirited, multifaceted book which will engage, entertain and inform you, then this is the one!
Most recent customer reviews
While I loved learning about the various animals, what made this book resonate for me are the people who care for...Read more