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Corvus: A Life with Birds Paperback – 1 Jun 2009

4.6 out of 5 stars 122 customer reviews

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£8.99 FREE UK Delivery on book orders dispatched by Amazon over £10. Only 3 left in stock (more on the way). Dispatched from and sold by Amazon. Gift-wrap available.
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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 (122 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 14,911 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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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: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is one of those special books, you read with the heart. The language is very down to earth, yet it is full of warmth and those silent little wonders, you can observe, when you take the time to see or live them; The book is beautifully written, partly a memoir and partly a big love for nature. It is life affirming and full of care.
One of the reason of buying it, was our own beautiful experiences with birds of all kinds over the last years. The most beautiful one was with a pheasant, who visited us almost daily, and especially regularly during the winter months. He got grains, and when we were not fast enough, he came to give a little knock on the patio door to call us outside. He sat in the garden, on the roof at times, on the window sill or on the fence. Once we had forgotten the grain tin in the garden, he was able to open it, even the mechanism to close it seems, in my view, very difficult for him to open.
With or without own experiences of this kind, this book is a lovely read. Very recommended.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I finished it! Just! I rarely give up on a book: I like to give the author a chance. With this one, I nearly did. Just as I was about to – at Kindle 72% – I hit the “illustrations, notes, acknowledgements” and a rather bizarre “index”. I realised I didn’t have to read any more.
The tale was very interesting, some might say inspiring, but the way it was told was drear in the extreme. The author clearly had not made up her mind whether she was writing narrative or a scientific treatise: it failed on both counts.
I am very interested in birds and thought this book might tell me more about them. It did, but the writing was soul-destroying. Sentences of more than 100 words and minimal punctuation leave the reader lost and confused. The nineteenth century masters could do it – but then they remembered to use colons or semi-colons to indicate where things were going.
But one of the most appalling aspects of this book was the regurgitated thesaurus effect giving streams of synonyms or near synonyms (hence some of the 100 word sentences) which were totally unnecessary and detracted from the tale. Clearly it was hoped a scattergun approach would provide the right word, even if the author was not sure what that word should be.
Finally, at the end of my Kindle download, I was informed she had written another book. I must question if there were any words left in her thesaurus?
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Format: 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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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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