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Vesper Flights

Helen Macdonald



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01 September 2020
ABBEY'S BOOKSELLER PICK ----- Vesper flights are the twilight forays of Swifts, who gather high in the sky, rise to the top of the convective boundary layer, where they work out exactly where they are, because in the high reaches of the atmosphere they can see the stars, calibrate their magnetic compasses, check the light polarisation patterns and see oncoming weather systems. Such an effort for a bird weighing 40 grams - and perhaps, Macdonald writes, they can be markers for human decision-making in the face of bad weather... In this heartfelt collection of 40 essays and articles, Macdonald blends scientific journalism with personal memoir and philosophical enquiry with literature, creating profound, exquisite, thought-provoking, urgent and transcendent works. Showing that the world is not just enormously complicated, but that it does not - and never has - belonged to humans alone. Splendid and stirring stuff indeed.  Lindy Jones

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.


By:   Helen Macdonald
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 222mm,  Width: 144mm,  Spine: 144mm
Weight:   392g
ISBN:   9780224097017
ISBN 10:   0224097016
Pages:   272
Publication Date:   01 September 2020
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Helen Macdonald is a writer, poet, illustrator and historian. Her book H is for Hawk won many prizes, including the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction, the Costa Book of the Year, the Prix due Meilleur Livre Etranger in France, and in the US was shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award. She writes a regular column in New York Times Magazine, and lives in Suffolk.

Reviews for Vesper Flights

Their subject matter is marvellously diverse, taking in nests, ants, hares, glow-worms, mushrooms, migration and more... These are urgent pieces designed to open our eyes to the state of the environment. -- Caroline Sanderson * Daily Mirror * This nature writer's long-awaited follow-up to her influential 2014 memoir H is for Hawk is a treat: dive into essays about headaches and high-rises, catching swans and farming ostriches. * Daily Telegraph * Vesper Flights...[takes] the reader on exhilarating adventures. -- Lisa Allardice * Guardian * Vesper Flights...reminds us we too are part of the natural world. -- Michael Hodges * Radio Times * H is for Hawk turned many a reader into a goshawk fan... This lyrical essay collection also explores human relationships with the natural world, but has a wider scope, taking in a search for the last golden orioles in Suffolk's poplar forests and swan-upping on the Thames. * Country Living * One of this century's greatest nature writers, Helen Macdonald takes simple moments - of nesting birds, wild boars emerging from the woods, foraging for mushrooms on an autumn day - and weaves them with history, personal reflection and political comment. -- Amy Barrett * BBC Science Focus Magazine * I finished the book seeing the natural world, and my place within it, afresh. * BBC Wildlife * Interesting and accomplished... Vesper Flights establishes her [Macdonald] as a penetrating analyst of the relationship between humans and the non-human world... She is splendid company reflecting on nests and the meaning of home and place. -- Charles Foster * Oldie * Macdonald is a glorious writer... This book will make you look a bit harder at the wonders around you. -- Nancy Durrant * Evening Standard * Helen Macdonald's new essays are no flights of fancy, as she examines who has the right to define and be the gatekeepers to the natural world... [Vesper Flights shares] many of the qualities of H is for Hawk - frankness, reflective thinking, formidable powers of observation and wordcraft. -- Susan Mansfield * Scotsman * From reflections on her childhood love of animals to sharp observations on the migrations of songbirds, the author of H is for Hawk fills her essay collection with vivid appreciation for the wildlife that surrounds us. * Time Magazine, *Summer Reads 2020* * Helen Macdonald's series of studies...show a remarkable eloquence, intelligence and empathy... Unfailingly acute. -- Stuart Kelly * Scotsman * Vivid, deeply informed, emotionally charged... [Vesper Flights] can startle you. -- Richard Mabey * Telegraph * Full of treasures... Couched in scientific learning... The pleasures of Vesper Flights are the pleasures of any literature; the lucidity of thought, the sensual tactility of the words (Macdonald can make you feel the bristle of the beetles that catch in her hair on a summer night), the comfort of the familiar and the thrill of the strange. But it is combined here with a real urgency, an awareness of our human imprint on the world and the damage that is doing. -- Teddy Jamieson * Herald Scotland * [Macdonald's] prose is poetic but it also has a drenching clarity... These are urgent pieces designed to open our eyes to the parlous state of the environment... A vital book for now because it... shows us that in respecting this diversity lies both the joy and unity of our own species. -- Charlotte Heathcote * Sunday Express * An excellent collection... Macdonald is so joyously and excitedly in love with the natural world around her it is difficult not to share in this rapture, but so, too, in her sense of loss... Compelling and urgent. -- India Lewis * Arts Desk * Those who have read Helen Macdonald's memoir H is for Hawk will be familiar with her ability to weave together natural, cultural and personal history and to tease out the deeper meanings of our encounters with the wild... She applies her bright, sensitive prose to encounters with swifts and a solitary boar; to the magic of woods in winter or a chalk quarry dotted with glow-worms on a hot summer's night. Her capacity for wonder is infectious. * New Statesman * An antidote to so much romantic, reductive writing about the natural world... Macdonald's writing teems with other voices and perspectives, with her own challenges to herself. It muddies any facile ideas about nature and the human, and prods at how we pleat our prejudices, politics and desires into our notions of the animal world... Hers is a gritty, companionable intimacy with the wild... The essays...are short, varied and highly edible. -- Parul Sehgal * New York Times * Nature writing at its best... All kinds of wondrous... Each and every essay reminded me what a gifted writer Macdonald is. Her prose is poetry but it also has a drenching kind of a clarity. And this is good because we shouldn't allow ourselves to be lulled by the sheer pleasure of reading her. For these are urgent pieces designed to open our eyes. -- Caroline Sanderson * Bookseller *Book of the Month* * Thrilling dispatches from a vanishing world... A powerful - and entertaining - corrective to the idea that the only hopes that matter on this planet are those of our own species. -- Tim Adams * Observer *

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