This is a book about loss – and about joy, and about wonder, and about hope. There’s a lot about the loss of nature over the last few decades and the author mixes this with memories of personal loss. A love of nature can be a support and strength during one’s life.
And it’s a book about wonder. The loss of nature matters, at least in part, because we lose the opportunity to have ‘Wow!’ moments where we see things that we couldn’t have imagined and that are so beautiful and are part of our, yes our, world. Our only world.
And it’s a book about hope, because Michael McCarthy offers the hope that if only we loved nature more, and faced up to that love, and acted on that love, then we wouldn’t make such a mess of the world we live in, and it would be a better place.
The author is maybe best at writing about the joy that nature has brought to his life, from the time he was a small boy on Wirral, to his travels as environment editor of the Independent. He recounts the people he has met and the sights of nature which have given him joy; from the discovery of a small colony of House Sparrows in London to the first sight of a Morpho butterfly in the Amazon, and much else besides.
Mike writes really well and he tells a good tale. I smiled once or twice when I read accounts which I have also heard from the author’s own mouth as we have quaffed claret with others over a good dinner.
But there was plenty that was new to me and I’ll be asking him about the woman with the heart-stopping face and fire-red hair some time soon (for there is more in this book than just nature).
This is a very good read from one of our finest writers about the natural world. I think Mike could write well about anything – certainly anything he cared about. But notice, that he is not, and would not claim to be, an expert on nature. Maybe that’s one reason why he sees the joy more clearly than some of us who ‘know’ more. Perhaps that knowledge compromises how much we can feel for nature. Does the head too often get in the way of the heart? I hope not, but if it does then this book reminds us of the richness of nature from an emotional point of view as well as an intellectual one.
George Osborne should read this book – but he just wouldn’t get it. Or maybe he would – it is very engagingly written.
The Moth Snowstorm: nature and joy by Michael McCarthy is published by John Murray.
Inglorious: conflict in the uplands by Mark Avery will be published by Bloomsbury at the end of July.