ONE OF THE GUARDIAN'S BEST NATURE BOOKS OF 2020
SHORTLISTED FOR THE RICHARD JEFFERIES SOCIETY & WHITE HORSE BOOKSHOP LITERARY PRIZE
'Lovely: full of fascinating detail and anecdote, but the undertow of the virus moving in real time beneath its sunlit surface gives it a unique emotional heft.'
'A literary window into the wonderful wild world during lockdown... a charming book.'
'An entrancing testament to nature's power to restore us to ourselves.'
Nature took on a new importance for many people when the coronavirus pandemic arrived, providing solace in a time of great anxiety - not least because the crisis struck at the beginning of spring, the season of light, growth, rebirth and renewal.
Three writers, close friends but living in widely separated, contrasting parts of the country, resolved to record their experiences of this extraordinary spring in intimate detail, to share with others their sense of the wonder, inspiration and delight the natural world can offer.
The Consolation of Nature is the story of what they discovered by literally walking out from their front doors.
About the Author
Michael McCarthy (Author)
Michael McCarthy is one of Britain's leading environmental journalists, formerly environment correspondent of The Times and environment editor of The Independent. He has won a string of awards for his writing, including the Medal of the RSPB, for 'outstanding services to conservation.' His book Say Goodbye to the Cuckoo (2009), a study of Britain's summer migrant birds, was widely praised; The Moth Snowstorm: Nature and Joy (2015) was shortlisted for the Wainwright Prize and the Richard Jefferies Prize.
Jeremy Mynott (Author)
Jeremy Mynott is a classical scholar, Emeritus Fellow of Wolfson College, Cambridge and former Chief Executive of Cambridge University Press. He is the author of various books on wildlife and nature. Birdscapes: birds in our experience and imagination (2009) was described by one reviewer as 'the finest book ever written on why we watch birds'. His latest book, Birds in the Ancient World: Winged Words (2018), was shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize and was a TLS 'Book of the Year'.
Peter Marren (Author)
Peter Marren is a nature writer and commentator, author of Bugs Britannica, Rainbow Dust, Chasing the Ghost and many other books on British plants, insects, and the countryside. He won the BSBI President's Prize for Britain's Rare Flowers, which was also runner-up for the Natural World Book Prize. He was awarded the Thackray Medal for The New Naturalists by the Society for the History of Natural History. His satirical column in British Wildlife magazine, Twitcher in the Swamp, has a cult following.
A literary window into the wonderful wild world during lockdown...a charming book—Daily Mail
A significant and beautifully written historical record of a unique English spring—Adam gretton, The Harrier
As our lives constrict again, the long spring lockdown already seems a lifetime ago. But that beautiful and frightening time has been perfectly captured in The Consolation of Nature by the naturalists Michael McCarthy, Jeremy Mynott and Peter Marren. Each reports from their home patches - Richmond, West Suffolk and North Wessex, respectively - to describe the progress of a record-breakingly sunny spring as human activity slowed and stilled. As a set of nature diaries it's lovely: full of fascinating detail and anecdote. But the undertow of the virus moving in real time beneath its sunlit surface gives it a unique emotional heft. When we emerge from this crisis our relationship with the natural world must change. This book surely is a record of the beginnings of that shift.—Melissa Harrison, The Times
A powerful and moving reflection on the solace brought by nature and its power as a balm for stressed-out lives—Caroline Lucas MP
What joy - three of our greatest nature writers in one book! What they felt under lockdown is surely what we all felt, that primal need to be out in nature - balm for body and soul. There's acute and beautiful observation on every page, thrown into exquisite relief by the poignancy of the circumstances. Against the backdrop of anxiety and doubt, their experiences bear witness to the inspiring and ever-hopeful lesson that nature can heal itself - and us - if we let it.—Isabella Tree
The Consolation of Nature is as scintillating, perceptive and every bit as readable as Gibert White's Selborne—Professor Tim Birkhead, FRS
The book isan entrancing testament to nature's power to restore us to ourselves. To read it is to open your eyes to everything around you, from an egg-laying butterfly to the value of cowpats. In the company of three generous naturalists, you wander down a Lovers' Lane of close observation plus humane imagination, into the tangled bank of wild and hidden life that still goes on, despite all we have done to it, in our countryside and parks. The Consolation of Nature is a consolation in itself.—Ruth Padel
These three distinguished writers are all steeped in the natural world, yet each is of highly individual sensibility and comes from a very distinct part of the country. For all the differences between them, they have produced a book of fundamental unity with a singular conclusion: that coronavirus and all its consequences reveal the central importance of nature to the British as a nation and to humans as a species. Their message could not be more timely.—Mark Cocker
Probably the best tribute to spring since Edward Thomas's In Pursuit of Spring... A spell-binding paean to the best and worst spring ever which shows how deeply Nature absorbs, stimulates and nurtures us.—Matthew Oates
They all write superbly and their styles and perspectives are sufficiently different to add variety to the passage... but not so different that any grates with the others. It is so beautifully written—Mark Avery
As expected from these three authors, it is beautifully written, but it is also extremely evocative.—Martin Harper, Global Conservation Director RSPB
I was entranced by the close observations of wildlife by three eloquent and experienced naturalists during the 'lockdown year', proof, if any were needed, that nature provides succour when it is most required—Richard Fortey, FRS
Credit to three of our most distinguished nature writers...This is an entertaining and insightful diary of lockdown, which really manages to capture the essence of the unique spring of 2020—Stephen Moss, 2020 Round-up of Nature Books
The joy of The Consolation of Nature is the privileged glimpse into the minds of really good naturalists - and they are admirably good. There is much written about nature and about its importance to humanity, and no lack of earnest rhetoric, but to see into the intimate and personal chambers of the minds of people who love nature, who live and breathe it, who cherish it and who find it an endless source of wonder, this is the delight of this book. There are no great messages, no edicts, no cajoling of our consciences, this is simply the everyday joy that the natural world provides at a time when we need it the most. I loved savouring it, small sections at a time, the reading equivalent of a slice of cake with tea - something to look forward to and enjoy for no other reason than it is a treat. That is not to say it is without wisdom, there is so much understated wisdom on every page, but it is for the reader to find and absorb for themselves and to ponder in a gentle way, like turning over a leaf and finding butterfly eggs, or suddenly spotting a buzzard high over London. J B Haldane was right when he said the world will not perish for lack of wonders but lack of wonder. This is a book that infuses the reader with wonder on every page.—Mary Colwell-Hector