The Peregrine Paperback – 9 Jun 2011
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‘…an inspiring example to future writers, and a gift to lovers of nature.’
The Times Literary Supplement
‘… a literary masterpiece, one of the 20th century’s outstanding examples of nature writing.’
‘The Peregrine should be known as one of the finest works on nature ever written'
‘… some of the most marvellous prose of the twentieth century.’
‘A tour de force … what can I do except praise writing which involves all the senses? This book goes altogether outside the bird-book into literature.’
The Sunday Times
‘A rapt and remarkable book … his phrases have a magnesium-flare intensity.’
‘… what is certain is that The Peregrine is the most precise and poetic account of a bird – possibly of any non-human creature – ever written in English prose.’
The Daily Telegraph
‘J. A. Baker's poetic prose has a hard intensity and an exquisite lyric grace that takes it far beyond the stereotypical stuff of larks ascending and questing voles. Cruelly beautiful and brutally exact, it sees the countryside anew to give us nature in the wild and in the raw.’
‘Including original diaries from which The Peregrine was written and its companion volume, The Hill of Summer, this is a beautiful compendium of lyrical nature writing at its absolute best […]. For those with an interest in the Peregrine Falcon or classic natural history writing. ‘
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Top Customer Reviews
'At midday I saw a fox, far out on the saltings, leaping and splashing through the incoming tide. On drier ground he walked; his fur was sleek and dark with wetness, his brush limp and dripping. He shook himself like a dog, sniffed the air, and trotted towards the sea-wall. Suddenly he stopped. Looking through binoculars, I saw the small pupils of his eyes contract and dilate in their white-flecked yellow irises. Eyes savagely alive, light smouldering within, yet glitteringly opaque as jewels. Their unchanging glare was fixed upon me as the fox walked slowly forward. When he stopped again, he was only ten yards away, and I lowered the binoculars. He stood there for more than a minute, trying to understand me with his nose and ears, watching me with his baffled, barbaric eyes. Then the breeze conveyed my fetid human smell, and the beautiful roan coloured savage became a hunted fox again, ducking and darting away, streaming over the sea-wall and across the long green fields beyond.'
Firstly, you have to come to grips with the density of observation that is packed into each page. If you persist in the belief that the books are "literally" true - i.e. all that is recorded was seen in a single winter - then you may struggle with this. However, if you give the author the latitude to compress 10 years into a single one for the sake of narrative then you will have no problems.
Secondly, if you are anything like me, you will have to dedicate more time to this book then you expect. It is so beautifully written that you will want to tarry over many of the sentences and turns of phrase. The two books - `The Peregrine' and `The Hills of Summer' run to a little over 265 pages of smallish type. Time and again I found myself going back a few pages to re-read sections.
The third issue you may have to deal with is downright jealousy at the things the author saw and his ability to describe them. His ability to describe what he sees is remarkable.
Some people have challenged the authenticity of some of the things that are recorded in this book - Peregrines hovering and feeding on worms are examples of observations that have been challenged - but that does not detract from the elegance of the prose or the sense of place that he manages to generate.
The addition of the diaries to his published work is beneficial in two ways. Its gives the reader a greater window into the way Baker viewed the world, but it also shows that the published books are not simple fragmented chronological (The Peregrine) or habitat based (The Hills of Summer) accounts.Read more ›
Recently I've picked up the binoculars and headed out into the countryside again - this book is largely responsible for that, and I think it must be the best nature writing which can rekindle that love of wild things.
I first heard about John Baker through the excerpts from "The Peregrine" in John Gray's book "The Silence of Animals" (in the chapter "Another Sunlight") and felt I had to buy it. John Gray notes that the book had been billed as a piece of nature writing, but that it is, in fact, more "radical": "'The Peregrine' is a tribute to the sense of freedom the bird evoked in Baker as he watched it in flight; but, more than that, the book is a record of the author's struggle to see the landscape in which he pursued the bird through the eyes of the bird itself".
With "The Peregrine" comes Baker's other masterpiece, "The Hill of Summer" - a more general description of nature divided up according to the summer months set in different locations. It is equally beautiful, with the author's sense of detachment from humanity being even more palpable.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough and it is a shame it is not better known.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Hard to describe this book, which is ironic as the descriptiveness it contains is like little else i've read. Read morePublished 19 days ago by james reardon
Absolutely fantastic - although I found it did take me a while longer to read than normal - the writing is so in depth that it requires some consideration and can't be just... Read morePublished 7 months ago by Amazon Customer
Every entry in this diary is poetic, whether the author describes his frequent sightings of the peregrine, or just the early morning frost on the grass. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Amazon Customer
I have never been to Chelmsford or that part of Essex but now I feel it is a chapter in my life.What a portrail of an area and a man.Published 9 months ago by Soelse