A couple of weeks ago, I randomly realised that it’s been a long time since I posted any pastoral content on this blog.
That’s a real shame, because I love the pastoral genre and I read a lot of it, so I thought I’d amend this by reviewing an amazing new pastoral book from one of my favourite writers, Helen Macdonald.
Author of the incredible and evocative H Is For Hawk, Macdonald is back with Vesper Flights, an essay collection that aims to bring together her love of the natural world with her fascination with people. The author is a highly respected bird trainer and natural world expert, so over the years she has amassed a lot of knowledge and tales about nature.
The book is collected essays from Macdonald, and span many years and countries. Macdonald takes the reader on a journey across the world and gives us a glimpse into the habitats and lives of many flora, fauna, animals, birds and, most intriguingly of all, people.
In the introduction, Macdonald compares her book to a Wunderkammern, a traditional German house of curiosities that was less ordered than a modern museum. Her aim is to combine nature with humanity and discuss our fragile relationship with Mother Nature.
That’s why each essay features a different topic; from birds’ nests to wild boar, mushrooms to the effects of climate change. In each essay the author discusses both her own personal feelings and the wider way that people interact with wildlife, plants and the environment.
By incorporating literature, history and the opinions of renowned naturalists, Macdonald showcases her passion for nature and brings together many different views and ideas. She also makes amazing points on the ways that people have interacted with the wild in Britain and around the world for centuries.
So, if you love nature and want to learn more about it, then Vesper Flights is the book for you. Macdonald has heavily researched her work, and she incorporates many intriguing facts into her book. For example, I bet you didn’t know that in the early 2000s around 60 captive wild boar were released into the wild in the South of the UK, and that since then, they have blossomed into a hoard of potentially thousands of boar that roam the woods, according to studies.
That and many other facts are sprinkled throughout the book, so you’re always learning and picking up exciting new information. Macdonald has researched heavily and has read a lot of books on the topic of the natural world, so you’ll learn some really intriguing facts and insights. She also delivers her information in an accessible and memorable way, so you’ll find yourself remembering loads of useful nature facts. These are particularly useful when you consider them in the context of the world’s environmental crisis.
The book isn’t exclusively about wildlife and nature; there’s a truly glorious tale about Macdonald’s pet parrot and a young autistic boy whose parents are considering renting her home. There are personal stories, anecdotes, academic-style essays and teachable moments in the book, so there’s something for all readers and every mood. You’ll laugh, cry and learn, all in one, which is pretty cool for one medium sized book.
At the end of the day, if your New Year’s resolution was to learn more about nature or to read more non-fiction books, then Vesper Flights is your ideal read. Even if you didn’t make a New Year’s resolution, or it wasn’t about reading, then you should still check this engaging and beautifully written book. Whether you’re a novice naturalist or you’re already knowledgeable about the world around us, you’ll find this book a creative and heart warming read.