Thursday, August 13, 2020

Vesper Flights

Vesper Flights by Helen Macdonald
Grove/Atlantic: 8/25/20
review copy; 288 pages

Vesper Flights by Helen Macdonald is a very highly recommended collection of 41 essays and meditations on the natural world. This is a collection of her best loved essays, along with new pieces on topics ranging from nostalgia for a vanishing countryside to the tribulations of farming ostriches to her own private vespers while trying to fall asleep.

As she writes: I hope that this book works a little like a Wunderkammer. It is full of strange things and it is concerned with the quality of wonder. and... Most of all I hope my work is about a thing that seems to me of the deepest possible importance in our present-day historical moment: finding ways to recognise and love difference. The attempt to see through eyes that are not your own. To understand that your way of looking at the world is not the only one. To think what it might mean to love those that are not like you. To rejoice in the complexity of things.

Vesper Flights fulfills her hope admirably. The essays are written in a poetic manner with an insight, clarity, and descriptiveness that immediately pulls you into seeing the natural world through her eyes and perhaps alter the way you currently look at the natural world. Humans tend to anthropomorphize the natural world rather than trying to viewing it realistically. Macdonald's descriptions and insight help assist in creating a true picture of the subject while providing insight into both the animal and human world. The writing is wonderful and the tone she sets helped bring a peaceful calm feeling to the forefront during a stressful time.

Contents include:  An Introduction; Nest; Nothing Like a Pig; Inspector Calls ; Field Guides; Tekels Park; High-Rise; The Human Flock; The Student’s Tale; Ants; Symptomatic; Sex, Death, Mushrooms; Winter Woods; Eclipse; In Her Orbit; Hares; Lost, But Catching Up; Swan Upping; Nestboxes; Deer in the Headlights; The Falcon and the Tower; Vesper Flights; In Spight of Prisons;  Sun Birds and Cashmere Spheres; The Observatory; Wicken; Storm; Murmurations; A Cuckoo in the House; The Arrow-Stork; Ashes; A Handful of Corn; Berries; Cherry Stones; Birds, Tabled; Hiding; Eulogy; Rescue; Goats; Dispatches from the Valleys; The Numinous Ordinary; What Animals Taught Me; Acknowledgements.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Grove/Atlantic.

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