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Tarka the Otter (Puffin Modern Classics) Paperback – 29 Jun 1995

4.7 out of 5 stars 36 customer reviews

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Paperback, 29 Jun 1995
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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Puffin Classics; New Ed edition (29 Jun. 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140366210
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140366211
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.7 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 116,671 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Henry Williamson is regarded by many as Britain's finest nature writer. He was born in London in 1895 but his work is rooted in the north Devon countryside where he went to live after being deeply affected by his experiences in the First World War. He published some fifty books, a mix of country stories, most famously Tarka the Otter and Salar the Salmon, and autobiographical fiction, including the fifteen-volume novel cycle, A Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight. He died in 1977.


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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I remember reading this book when quite young - maybe 9 or so - and being extremely upset by the ending. I have since revisited it as an adult and was struck by what a beautiful book it really is. It is full of joy and wonder, as well as death, sadness and brutality - the latter made even worse by its almost casual nature. It's an exquisite portrait of a vanished time, seen from Tarka's viewpoint.
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By Stewart M TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 12 Feb. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
From the very start it is clear that this is a book based on hours of observation, of close attention to detail and a keen eye.

The descriptions of the Otter's eye view of the Devon countryside rings very true; the plants, the birds and other animals occur exactly where they should be and the author clearly has a feel for water.

The otters in the book, especially Tarka, seem both real and fantastical at the same time - brave, cunning, highly intelligent and remarkably resolute. Whether this is a true reflection of the biological otter is a matter for debate, but the whole the book feels more believable than mythical.

The story is told in a simple and straight forward manner, and for all that the otters become somewhat humanised the story is far from romantic. The death of the otters at the hands of otter hunters in brutal, and their casual disregard for other living things is clearly shown.

This is a sympathetic portrait of otters and an honest, but not flattering, one of humans.

`Animal stories' of this type do feel rather old fashioned, but the detail of the observation lifts this book above the ordinary.

Recommended.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Beautifully written, and utterly bleak. The antithesis of Disney, here is nature in all its rawness. Beasts eat each other, and man kills indiscriminately. Our hero otter survives the trials of life, and goes out with a blaze of glory after an epic chase. Understood in the context of the First World War, the melancholic tone and realism of life and death is stark. Don't get attached to any animals you meet in the text, and some meet a truly heartbreaking end. This is such an amazingly real depiction of the English countryside, red in tooth and claw. Not one for sensitive children's bedtimes.
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Format: Paperback
I remember reading this book when i was young about 7 - 8 years old and after my boss saying that she just recently read it, i decided to re-read it and it brought back so many memories. Its a beautiful book which your imagination can get lost in and you can picture how otters would be.
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Format: Paperback
Been meaning to read this book for years. Finally got around to it after I saw a copy going cheap.

The novel tells the trials faced by an otter in the Devonshire countryside.

Taka is born 1 of 3 cubs, practically as soon as he is born he begins to recognise the dangers that will dictate and eventually end his life.

The book explores nature and the harshness encountered through both the wild and also mans interference. Nothing is left out or to the imagination. Often harrowing, the story details Tarka's constant battle with the otter hounds, and in particular their fearsome leader Deadlock.

In many ways Williamson's bleak writing of the English countryside reminded me of Cormac Macarthy, in particular the Orchard Keeper.

The only reason I gave this book 4 stars, not 5, is that the local dialect used for various landscape features got a bit tiresome and repetitive.

All in all, a very good read, but also a sad one which causes the reader to reflect on mans wrongful treatment of nature more than any other book I have read.
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Format: Paperback
As a child, the film adaptation of the classic novel had a massive effect on me and ever since it has been an ambition of mine to read the source material. I certainly wasn't disappointed. The book is both stunningly beautiful and brutal, with Williamson not afraid to shy away from certain gory details that were part of life as an Otter living during the early 20th century.

Thankfully, Otters are no longer subjected to such regular persecution but Henry Williamson gives us a captivating historical insight into rural England. A must read.
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Format: Paperback
This is a hard book to star. I do find it pedestrian, a slog at times though it certainly has its moments. One of those is Tarka playing with the moon (p 19). But sentences like 'Bird, animal and fish made a chasing arrow-head whose tip was the glinting pollack; conger the flexible shaft, otter and shag the barbs.' (p 69) make very little sense to me.. Much finer is 'When the sun, like an immense dandelion, looked over the light-smitten height of
Cosdon Beacon,'... (p 98).
I do feel with Williamson who had to rewrite the book no less than 17 times and understandably after four years of rewriting was pretty tired of it! Strange is the fact that the writer who supposedly knew the area as the back of his hand, seems to have confused the headwaters of the Torridge with those of the Okement (a tributary). The latter certainly rises near the Taw, the Torridge miles away!
I do not feel much sympathy for otters though I find it highly unlikely that a bitch and her two cubs would slay twelve rabbits (p 48)! But down-right hatred I feel for so-called sportsmen (what a silly word!). Murderers would be more fitting.
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