It’s come to my attention that I’ve neglected the pastoral section of my blog since I started it, so I thought I’d rectify this by including a review of a seminal book from the genre.
J. A. Baker’s classic book, detailing his frantic following of a pair of peregrines through the forests around his home in Essex, is a tour de force of epic proportions.
It spans a full year and reads much like the diary of a rabid wildlife enthusiast. Baker is an insightful, voracious follower of birds of prey and gives minute details of every aspect of the lives of the birds and animals in the forest.
His book is deeply emotional and raw, with Baker shown chasing peregrines throughout the English countryside in a bid to understand their hunting methods and mentalities.
Unlike many books about birds of prey, Baker isn’t seeking to possess or tame these birds. He wants to become one. He’s looking to achieve their level of concentration and hunting prowess.
Throughout the book he surveys the birds and tentatively tries to get closer and see the world through their eyes. His pursuit of this hawk-like state sees him go into a trance as he follows the birds across the English countryside and gets to know their habits, prey, preferences and hunting styles.
Baker is a master at creating atmosphere and describing his natural surroundings, and as a result The Peregrine is deeply atmospheric and hauntingly beautiful. Also, as the book depicts a changing landscape being reshaped by manmade pollution, making it a very topical read even today.
At the end of the day, Baker’s book was published in 1967, and written even earlier, so it’s not exactly a recent publication, but I’d recommend any pastoral literature fan, amateur ornithologist or nature lover reads this book. I’ll be doing a review of Wilding in the New Year, once I’ve got all my Christmas reading and celebrating out of the way, so stay tuned for that!