From the bestselling author of H is for Hawk comes a transcendent collection of essays about the natural world 'Thrilling dispatches from a vanishing world' Observer Animals don't exist to teach us things, but that is what they have always done, and most of what they teach us is what we think we know about ourselves. From the bestselling author of H is for Hawk comes Vesper Flights, a transcendent collection of essays about the human relationship to the natural world. Helen Macdonald brings together a collection of her best-loved writing along with new pieces covering a thrilling range of subjects. There are essays here on headaches, on catching swans, on hunting mushrooms, on twentieth-century spies, on numinous experiences and high-rise buildings; on nests and wild pigs and the tribulations of farming ostriches. Vesper Flights is a book about observation, fascination, time, memory, love and loss and how we make the world around us. Moving and frank, personal and political, it confirms Helen Macdonald as one of this century's greatest nature writers. **CHOSEN AS A SUNDAY TIMES BOOK TO WATCH OUT FOR AND A NEW STATESMAN BOOK TO READ**… (more)
“For days afterwards, my dreams are full of songbirds, the familiar ones from woods and backyards, but also points of moving light, little astronauts, travelers using the stars to navigate, having fallen to earth for a little while before picking themselves up and moving on.”
“There is a special phenomenology to walking in the woods in winter. On windless days there's a deep, soft hush that makes the sound of a stick breaking underfoot resemble a pistol shot. Its a quietness that fosters an acute sensitivity to small sounds that earlier in the year would be buried under a riot of birdsong.”
“Later (swifts) gather higher in the sky...And then, all at once, as if summoned by a call or a bell, they rise higher and higher until they disappear from view. These ascents are called vesper flights....”
H is For Hawk pounced on my reading life like an owl on a vole. I was quite taken with that memoir and so were many others. We all waited for what Ms. MacDonald would do next and she finally delivers a collection of essays. Yes, the bulk of these pieces are bird and nature related but she also gives a personal glimpses of her life, including her struggles with migraines. Of course there are environmental warnings, as well, with dire warnings of what lays ahead. She is a fine writer, with a big, inquisitive mind, making this a worthy read. I hope the quotes I chose, give you a taste of what to expect.
The essays in Vesper Flights include a broad range of
When Macdonald talks about viewing the migration of birds from the top of the Empire State Building, I remembered one of the most extraordinary sights of my life. My husband and I were at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania when we saw the sky darkened with migrating birds, an endless stream that filled the sky! To this day, forty years later, I remember the dark silhouettes winging against a sky filled with streaks of dark clouds backlit by an autumn sun.
A chapter that caught my attention describes her trek with Nathalie Cabrol, an explorer, astrobiologist and planetary geologist specializing in Mars. They went to the high altitudes of Antofagasta, Chile, to an environment that may be like that of Mars. "They higher we climbed, the further we'd go back in time--not on Earth, but on Mars," Macdonald writes.
I love armchair travel that takes me to such extraordinary places. Cabrol takes the author to the desert salt flats and gypsum sands, a brutal environment with its dangerously high UV radiation, thin atmosphere, and volcanic activity.
"Above me, the Southern Hemisphere stars are all dust and terror and distance and slow fire in the night, and I stare up, frozen, and frozen in wonderment," MacDonald recalls.
Cabrol says the Earth will survive us after we have destroyed what has made our existence possible. It offers little comfort to humans. But we ourselves have created this legacy.
I have savored the book a little at a time, delving in when I need a break from the sad news of the world.
I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.
I really really like Helen Macdonald's other books. There are several reasons for this. To begin with, you learn something about animal life in each book and I really like the way that she writes about how they behave I even like the way she kinda
"I hope that this book works a little like a Wunderkammer. It is full of strange things
Si she goes on to show us the wonder, the magical that nature provides. From a field, where as a child she would lie face down to discover what was hidden beneath the grass, to magnificent bird nests. Watching the many birds that fly at night,from the Empire State building to mushroom picking in the wild, both with knowledgeable friends. A trip to observe an eclipse that she found both terrifying and awe inspiring.
The personal, as she suffers from migraines and discusses how they affect her and a discussion of migraines themselves. There is so much more, and I loved each and every one.
A look into the mystery, the wonder if nature, what is there to experience if we only open our eyes. What will be lost, if we don't protect and act now.
I requested and received a free ebook copy from Grove Atlantic/Grove Press via NetGalley. Thank you!
I especially would love this book to be a part of school curriculum. But why stop
Macdonald weaves great stories around her personal experiences with birds, her thoughts and how those two worlds intersect. She does it beautifully, and I found myself rereading the last few paragraphs of each vignette, sometimes out loud, so I could let the words really sink in.
Vesper Flights also contains a sobering section about our planet and its future, that will likely serve as a jumping off point for some readers to research what they can do to help.
I often find that my mind and compassion expand when I read and this is definitely true of Vesper Flights. It’s a thoughtful, honest, beautiful and engaging collection.
Note: I received this book via Netgalley. These are my unbiased thoughts.
This soft, creamy Danish cheese was invented by Hanne Neilson in the mid-1800s. She traveled around Europe to learn cheesemaking. Nielsen's farm was in Havarthigaard, north of Copenhagen, and in 1852, after returning from her travels, she developed the technique to create
A hard yellow Swiss cheese named after the town of Gruyère. In 2001, Gruyère gained the name d’appellation d’origine contrôlée*. Gruyère is classified as a Swiss-type or Alpine cheese, and is sweet but slightly salty, with a flavor that varies widely with age. It is often described as creamy and nutty when young, becoming more assertive, earthy, and complex as it matures. When fully aged (five months to a year), it tends to have small cracks that impart a slightly grainy texture.
a French phrase which shows that a product comes from a certain area. Some products must come from a certain area and be made in a certain way in order to have the name of the product.
Scholars are divided on the true history of cheddar cheese. Some believe that this delicious and popular cheese began in Roman times, with the recipe traveling from Roman-controlled France into the Somerset region of England. Others believe that cheddar is a purely British invention.
The exact origins of smoked cheese are unknown, but it’s most likely that it was discovered by accident. A lucky accident of course! Some food historians think that perhaps the owner of an ancient cheese store kept his product close to a wood burning fire and noticed that it gave the cheese a distinct flavor over time. Most cheesemongers choose to smoke their cheese in smokers now, but there are still some who prefer the traditional method of an open wood fire. There are also unconventional methods – you can use a newer method of ‘liquid smoke’. The smoked flavor is liquified and mixed directly in.
Stilton with Blueberry
The cheese takes its name from the village of Stilton, now in Cambridgeshire, where it has long been sold. Stilton is an English cheese, produced in two varieties: Blue, which has had Penicillium roqueforti added to generate a characteristic smell and taste, and White, which has not. Both have been granted the status of a protected designation of origin (PDO) by the European Commission, requiring that only such cheese produced in the three counties of Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire may be called “Stilton".
However, Stilton cheese cannot actually be produced in Stilton village, which gave the cheese its name, because it is not in any of the three permitted counties. The Original Cheese Company applied to amend the Stilton PDO to include the village, but the application was rejected in 2013.
It is pale in color with a slight grayish tinge under a rind of white mold. The rind is typically eaten. Legend has it that in the eighth century, French Emperor Charlemagne first tasted this soft cheese at a monastery in Reuil-en-Brie and fell instantly in love with its creamy, rich flavor. The favorites of kings eventually become favorites of the people, and Brie is no exception.
Legitimate Brie must be made in the Seine-et-Marne area south of Paris, but many countries now commercially manufacture a similar cheese which is also sold as brie. There are now many varieties of brie made all over the world, including plain brie, herbed varieties, double and triple brie and versions of brie made with other types of milk. According to French law, a double-crème cheese must have between 60-75% butterfat. Although brie is a French cheese, it is possible to obtain Somerset and Wisconsin brie.
If the thought of a colony of crawlies (albeit microscopic) scuttling over cheese makes your stomach churn, avert your eyes now. For we’re about to discuss the unsavory secret behind Mimolette’s trademark nutty tang.
In one (spine-tingling) word: mites. The little bugs burrow in the rind and munch their gluttonous way through the thick skin, leaving behind a trail of flavor-filled dust. Technically a Dutch concoction, Mimolette, also known as Boule de Lille or Vieux Hollande, received a French makeover of sorts in 1675, during the French-Dutch war. Louis XIV’s wily Minister of Finance, Colbert, banned the import of the brittle cheese and instead ordered Flemish farmers to come up with an equally mite-smattered alternative. The rest, as they say, is history.
Of course, the mites are long gone before Mimolette reaches our cheeseboards. Their task complete, the beasties are swiftly removed, usually with a blast of compressed air or firm hand-brushing.
Although I enjoyed Macdonald’s first book, [H is for Hawk], I loved these short sparkling essays. They encompass a variety of subjects – nature, birds, mammals,