Ring of Bright Water

by Gavin Maxwell

Paperback, 1987



Local notes

574.5 Max




Penguin Books (1987), 240 pages


Ring of Bright Water is an autobiographical work by Gavin Maxwell. Hailed a masterpiece when it was first published, the story of Gavin Maxwell's life with otters on the remote west coast of Scotland remains one of the most lyrical, moving descriptions of a man's relationship with the natural world.


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

240 p.; 4.9 inches

User reviews

LibraryThing member sloopjonb
I first read this book (and the two sequels) many years ago, and enjoyed them, although the ending of the trilogy became a little bleak. Not too long ago I happened upon an account of Maxwell's later life and death, which prompted further research. As a result I now consider these books,
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well-written and seemingly charming, as, by their omissions, little more than a pack of lies, produced by a monstrous ego. Feet of clay, eh.
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LibraryThing member Kittybee
This has been my lunch time read for the last few weeks. While the book is marketed as an author's life with pet otters, it is really much more than that. While I enjoyed the shenanigans of the otters - which don't get wrong are adorable, the parts of the book I really enjoyed were Gavin Maxwell's
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descriptions of the various natural environments he traveled to and lived in: everywhere from the marshes of Iraq to the highlands of Scotland. While the book seemed a little dated at times, for me it was really eye opening to see what the exotic animal trade was like in the 50s and 60s. There were definitely several passages that made me cringe. As a word of warning to potential readers, there are a few parts in this book that are pretty upsetting to animal lovers, so if you tend to get upset when reading this sort of book you might want to steer clear.
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LibraryThing member DeltaQueen50
Originally published in 1959, Ring of Bright Water by Gavin Maxwell is a delightful memoir about the author’s life at a remote house on the coast of Western Scotland near the Hebrides. His descriptions of the location and the bountiful nature he was surrounded by had this reader longing to visit
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this idyllic place. When he first arrived he was accompanied by his dog, Jonnie, but after the death of his beloved pet, he acquired an otter named Mijbil while on a trip to Iraq.

The author documents Mijbil’s delightful and mischievous behaviour, and many of the hilarious incidents reminded me of trying to contain a toddler. His curiosity was boundless and he had a need to examine everything that came his way. Unfortunately, Mijbil met an untimely death and the author was devastated. Although he tried to replace Mijbil, nothing seemed to pan out for him until quite by accident he met a couple who had a young otter that they needed to find a home for. Once again his highland cottage was sanctuary to an otter, this time a female called Edal.

The author’s love of nature brings a richness to the descriptive writing, and his visual images and observations make Ring of Bright Water a memorable read. Although in today’s world the author would be chided for bring these creatures out of their own environment, he was living in a different time and his love and care for these otter companions is both touching and admirable.
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LibraryThing member monado
If ever anyone was crazy about otters, it was Gavin Maxwell, who turned his house over to them.
LibraryThing member reeread
I remember seeing a film of this book back in the '70s. I was quite taken with it at the time - it seemed to emphasise the otter and his owner and their relationship. Don't remember that it was so isolated or that there was a dog and another otter and travel overseas as well. There might have been
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a scene at the beginning in London where Gavin Maxwell was wanting to escape to a life of peace and solitude.
Anyway the book has more in it - was very struck by how spartan the lifestyle was and wondered at what sort of a person Gavin Maxwell was.
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LibraryThing member nandadevi
This book has been in my bookcase since 1969, as I recollect. I'd avoided it all that time because it seemed too saccharine and formulaic, remembering this was the time of 'Born Free' and curiously Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna played in movies derived from both of these books. So I've resisted
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Joy Adamson's and Gavin Maxwell's simple 'pull' but all the while working my way around the flank. The path to Maxwell turned out to be via Wilfred Thesiger, and Maxwell's account of their travelling together in the marshes of Iraq in the 1950's ('A Reed Shaken by the Wind'), where - improbably - Maxwell met his first otter. So taking it up now it is a sacharine story, and also a very dry one. As another reviewer has remarked, possibly the most extraordinary creature in this story is not found amongst the otters, but is Maxwell himself. Even in 'A Reed Shaken by the Wind' he doesn't reveal much, but there are tantalising hints between the lines. In the end I'd recommend this book very highly, but not for the undeniable attraction of the otters or the beauty of the scenes he paints with words, but for the glimpse into an extraordinary life which deserves (and will reward) further exploration.
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LibraryThing member keylawk
The great naturalist writes of his isolated life on the northwest coast of Scotland -- among the bays and cottages scattered throughout the wild sea lochs of the Western Highlands and the Hebrides. For the author, "these places are symbols" of freedom....

"For I am convinced that man has suffered in
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his separation from the soil and from the other living creatures of the world; the evolution of his intellect has outrun his needs as an animal, and as yet he must still, for security, look long at some portion of the earth as it was before he tampered with it". [Foreword]

In this landscape of rock and waves lushly described, Maxwell shares with us the life lived with two otters and other neighbors, with the stags roaring on the slopes of Skye across the Sound, and the wild swans flying low over the lead-grey sea. St. Cuthbert, who we are told was missionary to the remotest hamlets and is the patron saint of otters, would be proud.
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LibraryThing member overthemoon
Maxwell, a naturalist, is a beautiful, lyrical writer - I loved his descriptions of the land and sea around his home at Sandaig where he lived almost as a recluse. After the death of his beloved dog Jonnie he decided he did not want another dog and instead chose an otter as companion. The second
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part of the book describes how he found Mijbil when working with Wilfred Thesiger in Iraq, the difficulties in getting him back to Britain, installing him in his London flat, taking him on walks through the streets of London, shopping in Harrods, getting him by train to Sandaig... He only had Mij for a year until he met his cruel fate in the shape of a lorry driver called Big Angus (like Maxwell, I would have wanted to bash his skull in ) and eventually found, quite by chance, a domesticated female otter to take his place. Life with the otters is delightful, entertaining and endearing; but you feel that tug of anxiety you have with teenage children when you let them have their freedom but lie awake worrying when they are late coming home. Maxwell the man is hard to grasp; I wish he had not killed the fox family at the beginning of the book (or not written about it, or missed it out), and for all the care - the love - he bestowed upon Mij and Edal, I keep thinking they should have been left in their natural habitat. I gave this four stars instead of five because it has left me feeling very sad.
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LibraryThing member monado
This is the memoir of a man totally obsessed with otters. He let them live in his house, and to him the fall of Iran meant only that he didn't get some promised otters from the Shah's game-keeper.
LibraryThing member adb42
The classical story of the man, escaping the hubbub of city life to settle in the breathtaking surroundings of Western Scotland, and the lonely house at Camusfearna.
LibraryThing member adb42
Dutch translation of Ring of Bright Water, Gavin Maxwell's immortal story of otter Edal in the idyllic surroundings of Camusfearna.

De Nederlandse vertaling van Ring of Bright Water, het onsterfelijke verhaal door Gavin Maxwell over otter Edal in het idyllische Camusfearna.
LibraryThing member jon1lambert
These early Pan paperbacks often get overlooked. Their look and feel is superb and this one at least has stood the test of time. Its cover still glistens,
LibraryThing member Wolfseule
A man, who lived in the 1950s in a little, lonely house in scotland by the sea, more often than not accompanied by an otter. What's not to love about this? And of course, you do learn a lot about various kinds of animals during reading.
LibraryThing member HeatherLINC
I found this book rather slow at the start, too many descriptive passages, but once Mijbil and the other otters made it to the story, it was lovely. I find otters absolutely fascinating and I loved reading about the adventures of these ones although, unfortunately, they were only in about half the
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(121 ratings; 4)
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