An eloquent, eccentric, and precise nature memoir.




A distinguished British paleontologist offers a meticulously compiled “biography” of four acres of woodland in Oxfordshire, England.

In 2011, Fortey (Horseshoe Crabs and Velvet Worms: The Story of the Animals and Plants that Time Has Left Behind, 2012, etc.) became the owner of a parcel of land known as Grim’s Dyke Wood. Eager to recapture the wonder of childhood, he soon began keeping a journal of the “diverse moods and changing seasons” of a place that, from the beginning, had felt like home. Fortey’s more scientific aim was to understand how the natural world had come to be so varied. For a year, the author wrote a month-by-month account of the flora and fauna of Grim’s Dyke Wood. The book begins in April, when “a sea of bluebells” and other flowers began to carpet the ground in colorful splendor. As spring moved into summer, pale, smooth-barked beeches created green leafy canopies that protected a revival of insect activity. The mixture of rain with spells of hot, dry weather during the summer months created an environment that was generous in its gifts of wild cherries but also proved temporarily inhospitable to both microorganisms and small mammals. Early fall brought with it the joys of truffle and mushroom hunting. The cooler temperatures and rains of November signaled the end of reproductive cycles for spiders and other animals as well as the proliferation of unique fungi. Despite the cold and snow of winter, holly and ivy persisted and even thrived, and men came to fell trees “vying for space” or too sick to live. February brought a proliferation of mosses, which heralded new cycles of growth about to begin again. Replete with photographs, recipes for homemade concoctions like ground elder soup and nettle fertilizer, and side stories of the people, past and present, who impacted the wood, this book will appeal to environmentalists or anyone interested in a richly tapestried natural history of south central England.

An eloquent, eccentric, and precise nature memoir.

Pub Date: Dec. 7, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-87575-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2016

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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