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Corvus: A Life with Birds Paperback – 1 Jun 2009

4.6 out of 5 stars 118 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Granta Books; First Paperback Edition edition (1 Jun. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847080804
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847080806
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.4 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (118 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 20,389 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'Like all the best accounts of a life shared with animals (Gerald Durrell comes inevitably to mind), Corvus offers much in the way of domestic comedy ... Exquisitely written - Gallopingly readable' - Guardian 'A number of qualities make this unlikely book such a triumph. The first is the author's character, as revealed in the tone of her narrative voice - Then there is the deceptive simplicity of Woolfson's best writing - Finally though, it is her ever-present sense of fresh wonder which carries us lightly to the very last page' - Irish Times'Funny, touching and beautifully written - a fascinating insight into the closeness human beings can achieve with wild creatures'- Sunday Times

About the Author

Esther Woolfson was brought up in Glasgow and studied Chinese at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Edinburgh University. Her acclaimed short stories have appeared in many anthologies and have been read on Radio 4. She has won prizes for her nature writing and received a Scottish Arts Council Travel Grant and a Writer's Bursary


Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: 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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By Jood TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 4 Jan. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
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.
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