In this collection of 41 essays Helen Macdonald writes about a wide variety of subjects concerning nature and the way humans relate to it, ranging from a solar eclipse and migrating birds to migraines and mushrooms. This landed on my TBR list when I read this review by KimMiE” which made me curious about the book. I am glad that I followed her advice and read it slowly over several weeks, one essay at a time, because I don’t think I would have enjoyed it as much otherwise.
There are two reasons for this in my eyes: Firstly, Macdonald has some profound and emotionally impactful insights into nature and how people relate to it, how they change it, and how much has already been lost to carelessness and greed, and these should really be savoured. She often packs a lot of information and thought-provoking observations into a very short essay, before the subject is changed completely in the next one, so it is probably best to let it all sink in a little to get the most out of it, especially since a lot of the enjoyment and allure derives from the emotional impact.
Secondly, I am unfortunately not completely sold on Macdonald’s prose. Her writing is mostly beautiful and touching, but I do think that she now and then tends to go overboard with the poetic expressions and metaphors, which can have a jarring effect and take you out of the story. So for me it was best to read it in increments because this made my minor annoyances with the style more or less a non-issue. All in all, this is very much a matter of personal preference anyway and doesn’t change my opinion that she in general is a good writer who admirably conveys the reverence and love she has for all the creatures inhabiting the world, and that I am convinced she also manages to instill in her readers. Overall, this is an impressive collection of observations and ruminations on life and nature.
CBR13 Bingo: Rec’d