Nature Cure is an account of Richard Mabey's move from the Chilterns to East Anglia and of his recovery from depression. In both cases these are stories of reconnection - with the landscape and with his self.
Mabey had lived for most of his life in one house in the Chiltern Hills, he owned a wood there and, as much of his other work suggests, the place was central to who he was. Depression robbed him of that connection and in the end he was needed to leave. He needed to reconnect with a place and he needed to reconnect with the person he was. In the end he suceeds.
Anybody who has lost touch with a place they love, or has struggled with depression will recognize the things described in this book. However, this is not just a book for migrants or the depressed, far from it. It is full of simple stories that put place and self at the centre of things - and in these days of increasing stress and social isolation these are no bad stories to hear. We often define ourselves through our relationships with place and space and struggle when these are stripped of meaning.
Mabey writes "I don't think that love of one's own place that bears no hostility to others is a bad emotion", but I think it may have taken him a while to reach this conclusion.
This is a fascinating and honest account of a person trapped in the quick sand of depression,change and doubt, and finally emerging on to the firm ground of connection. Highly recommended.
A beautifully written book by one of my favourite authors. His description of deep depression is disturbingly accurate - an awful state of mind that seems to come from nowhere and sucks all colour and pleasure from life. He writes of lying in bed looking with incomprehension at books on his bookshelf that he himself had written; surely they must have been written by someone else?
His recovery, helped by friends and the lovely Polly is a pleasure to read. The colour and pleasure of a life that he had thought lost slowly reappear and through it all there is the wonder and beauty of nature.
I enjoyed this book immensely. The author's emotional and physical journey from one beloved and known landscape, through pain and loss, to the renewing strength of another quite different place, is expressed with courage and a disarming honesty that utterly convinces. I learnt much from the author's thought-provoking meditations on nature and even more about what it is to be human. Thank you Richard Mabey!
There is no denying that Richard Mabey is a talented author and naturalist, so its no surprise that the combination of these two qualities produce a book that is both eloquent and imaginative, and will for some people be the epitome of what a thought-provoking 'nature book' should be.
However I was first introduced to Nature Cure through Mabey's column in BBC Wildlife of the same name, and found it to be not only pessimistic but also somewhat dismissive of efforts to aid the natural world. So upon embarking on the book I was prepared for much more of the same, and I wasn't disappointed.
From the word go Mabey seems intent on reminding us of what we have lost rather than what we still have and what it can do for us. Although he describes swift sightings and deer encounters with heart-warming enthusiasm, it is always followed by a lengthy account of how out of tune we have become with nature, or a depressing metaphor for mankind's fall from grace!
Even the title is somewhat misleading. I expected the theme of Nature Cure to be a description of how the power of the natural world helped Mabey overcome depression. However it begins with Mabey already recovered, with barely a glimpse back into his life before recovery. As such the book meanders its way through what can only be described as a rather uneventful 'recuperation' period. Mabey's talent for describing natural events kept me interested enough to see it through to the end but it did become a chore and left me far from inspired.
There are some people who will find the book wonderful. There are beautiful descriptions and evocative thoughts which will make the more romantic nature lover's day. But for the more practical wildlife enthusiasts (like me) who like to learn and experience, it was rather disappointing.
For me Nature Cure was not an exhilarating literary venture in the way Mabey's Flora Britannica was, but it is something a little different, and for that reason is both refreshing and worth a try.
I enjoyed this unusual very personal approach to a book on Nature. The title almost suggests a therapeutic natural cure such as one would buy in a herbalists store, but Richard Mabey has drawn off all that a man can from the simple yet highly effective healing process that living extremely close to a natural environment can offer, if one has his special kind of sensitivity to receive and benefit from it. The part of the book, relatively small , which dealt with his mental stress gave one a very vivid awareness of being in his shoes, unable to cope and lift himself out of the stifling, paralising stiuation in which he had descended. The cure which came about through the love and support of friends and above all , a change of environment jerked him into a new state of awareness and he was able very gradually to take stock of himself, his life and future thanks to the nourishment of the new nature surrounding him.
I can't praise Nature Cure highly enough. It is billed as a journey through depression but it really isn't an inward looking self analysis - and his illness and cure take up very little of the book. He reveals what he needs to about himself but the real story is his examination of man's inner relationships with the natural world. And he is a person who has access to a fantastic store of knowledge about nature. It is very readable and one of the most thought provoking books I've read for a long time. I am carrying around a wealth of new information, which I find myself retrieving and considering throughout the day. Mabey has a deep and comprehensive affinity with the countryside and ecology and writes quite beautifully. I will be re-reading this very soon. He is part of my interwoven trio of rural writers that I recommend frequently and enthusiastically - the other two being Ronald Blythe and Roger Deakin.