In The Book of Eels, Patrik Svensson interweaves what is known of the strange biology of eels with the history of human interaction and investigation of them as well as how eels have shaped his own life. The reader comes away with a much greater appreciation for these admittedly creepy creatures, details about historical figures you wouldn’t have expected, and respect for his family.
Eels are an ancient creature that metamorphize dramatically, going from tiny leaf shapes floating in the Sargasso Sea, to translucent creatures in the Mediterranean, to what we recognize as eels inland in fresh water systems. After a variable number of years, they travel back, presumably to the Sargasso Sea to reproduce and die, but this last step has still never been found. They are very hardy, surviving survive hardships and able to travel overland to new waterways, yet are now facing extinction. Svensson provides this information, weaving it in with the people who studied them, going back to the Greeks, while also describing his father, a simple man who loved fishing for eels and would spend his summer vacations bringing his son out to fish for them. Ultimately, this book seems to be a tribute to his father.