Sunday book review – The Eternal Season by Stephen Rutt

This is a lovely book about summer, and particularly the summer of 2020, the summer of covid. There is much about wildlife, particularly, but not just, birds, of climate change and how that affects the wildlife around us and of the special constraints and disruptions of lockdowns.

There are some great accounts of wildlife observations, and many stimulating thoughts about the landscapes visited and the wildlife seen. I learned some good new facts and revisited some known areas from the author’s different perspective. I was taken by his description of Corn Bunting song, I loved the account of looking for Nightjars and I liked hunting for Scotch Argus in Galloway. The observations and speculations about climate change and wildlife are well made and not too depressing – they will help many readers think more about this global issue through the lens of a love of wildlife.

I liked this book very much but I couldn’t fall in love with it – but I reckon that many of you will. I have to admit that I felt the same about the author’s acclaimed Seafarers which I picked up and put down very many times and couldn’t quite get into it comfortably, and never wrote a review of it. I’ve been trying to understand why I like the writing very much but yet, but yet it doesn’t quite nail it for me (though it may well do for you). I think it is because structure is quite important for me to get on with a book – it has to have some sort of trajectory so that I know where I am and where I’ve come from in the book, and to some extent where I might be taken in the remaining pages. This book has a trajectory, we move from spring to autumn, and the chapters do that well. Within each chapter there are collections of sentences that are just delightful but they sometimes don’t, for me, connect to the previous collection of sentences in the most pleasing way. I’ll say again, I think this is to do with how my brain works, and reads, and not in any way a criticism of the book. I’m sure that this style will work perfectly for many others.

I am quite surprised to see that the author is in his late twenties – this feels like a mature book by a mature writer with mature thoughts. Let’s hope that there are many more to come. And I look forward to reading them.

The cover? Delightful in my view and summery – a strong 8 out of 10, at least.

The Eternal Season: ghosts of summers past, present and future by Stephen Rutt is published by Elliot and Thompson.

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