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Vesper Flights (2020)

by Helen Macdonald

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5012340,037 (4.07)63
From the bestselling author of H is for Hawk comes a transcendent collection of essays about the natural world 'Thrilling dispatches from a vanishing world' Observer 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. **CHOSEN AS A SUNDAY TIMES BOOK TO WATCH OUT FOR AND A NEW STATESMAN BOOK TO READ**… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
So much to admire: the writing which is both straightforward but full of riches of all kinds; MacDonald's introspective honesty and hard-won self-awareness; her willingness to work hard and sensitivity to her surroundings, oh, and just plain old knowledge on top of all that. She knows her birds, plants, mushrooms, trees and animals and has learned to notice what she doesn't yet know. One of MacDonald's gifts is to connect some current obsession or sudden awareness of a bird or animal with (to paraphrase) something she is in need of learning in her life, a truly magical synergy that the 'science' side has trouble acknowledging the importance of. The essay on deer is painful but the fact that she discovers on a walk that she has, heretofore, simply ignored learning about deer is an example, of how sometimes you resist in order to preserve mystery, but while you do that you could be reducing the realities of that animal to your own imagined needs, that there is a place in-between you can arrive at with care. MacDonald explores this border, between what animals and birds really are, and how we imagine they are and the resulting dissonances. Another essay along this theme (I could mention something about each and every essay, but I will spare you) touches on the way an animal will often make itself present at a time of duress in a person's life. Very often an animal that is highly unusual--almost everyone has a story. For me it was finding a pheasant roosting on the garden wall between our house and the neighbor in Philadelphia at 6 a.m. (this, a totally urban environment in center city) at a turning point in my life. Virtually everyone has a similar story. The screech owl out the window three nights in a row after my aunt's husband died; a deer encounter, all three of us staring at one another for as long as a minute at no more than ten feet (my daughter 2 1/2 in a pack on my back) that I witnessed launching her into an awareness of the existence of a whole world out there apart from her. ( )
  sibylline | Jan 26, 2022 |
Elegant and often profound essays on nature (including human nature). Special emphasis on birds.
  beaujoe | Jan 17, 2022 |
Vesper Flights brings together a collection of essays that on the surface are about the birds she loves and cares for. With little effort, readers can unpack the greater feelings in the author's life that she uses her expert bird observations to help her understand and cope. The essays range in topics from grief, climate change, immigration, spiritualism, behavior, self-realization, and more.
Macdonald has brought another touching work of prose to readers. As those that have read H is for Hawk know, you do not have to be a fanatic bird watcher to enjoy and gain knowledge from these essays. Instead the essays caused me to make the time to stop and observe life with all it cohesion, interdependence, and synchronicities. I enjoyed this peaceful read and recommend it for those looking for something to read on vacation or as a vacation from everyday life. ( )
  Bibliophilly | Sep 21, 2021 |
audiobook nonfiction/navel gazing and drivel
I suspect, as with [b:H is for Hawk|18803640|H is for Hawk|Helen Macdonald|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1442151714l/18803640._SY75_.jpg|26732095] (which I have not attempted to read), this is one that people either love or hate.
The quality of the author's narration was fine--I thought her voice was expressive and had a nice timbre to it--however I found the content lacking. Each sentence was spoken as a revelation and sprinkled heavily with purple prose and yet, at the end of a paragraph (or several hours), I had learned very little. It's not a writing style I prefer, in print or in audio, but other people may love it. ( )
  reader1009 | Jul 3, 2021 |
I normally shy away from essay collections, I really can't explain why, I just do, but I so thoroughly enjoyed H is for Hawk that I had to pick up this book (actually, my wife and I gave it to each other for Christmas (returned one copy and ended up walking out with three more books)). Some of the essays are more engaging than others, but all are coming from Ms. Macdonald's heart. She writes how I feel. ( )
  hhornblower | May 30, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
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Back in the sixteenth century, a curious craze began to spread through the halls, palaces and houses of Europe.
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In my experience if you go out hoping for revelation you will merely get rained on.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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From the bestselling author of H is for Hawk comes a transcendent collection of essays about the natural world 'Thrilling dispatches from a vanishing world' Observer 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. **CHOSEN AS A SUNDAY TIMES BOOK TO WATCH OUT FOR AND A NEW STATESMAN BOOK TO READ**

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