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Ring of Bright Water (1960)

by Gavin Maxwell

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Brightwater (1)

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8222120,635 (4.01)84
Ring of Bright Water is an autobiographical work by Gavin Maxwell. Hailed a masterpiece when it was first published, the story of Gavin Maxwell's life with otters on the remote west coast of Scotland remains one of the most lyrical, moving descriptions of a man's relationship with the natural world.
  1. 10
    Tarka the Otter by Henry Williamson (Othemts, chrisharpe)
  2. 00
    Born Free by Joy Adamson (Stbalbach)
    Stbalbach: Both pub. in 1960 concerning raising wild animals as pets; they were influential classics that made many readers environmentally aware for first time; the authors had notable character flaws in real life (abusive, mean); the beloved animals die raising criticisms about wild animals as pets; the books are extremely well written and remain popular.… (more)

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» See also 84 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
Gavin Maxwell published this true-story about wild animal friendship with humans in 1960, and it has remained influential ever since. Readers claim it made them environmentalists, not unlike the phenomenon of Born Free published the same year with similar themes. The Dutton Animal Book Award was created because of its success, which inspired other books in the same vein, such as Rascal (1963) about a boy and his racoon. But this is no children's book. The writing is remarkably well done, the choice of vocabulary, descriptions, economy of words. And it would be even better except Maxwell was something of a weak character in real life ("he was, by literally all accounts, an extremely unpleasant man"). And then the fame of the book destroyed him, the contradictions with his true self too much. Afterwards he drank and smoked heavily and was dead at 55, of lung cancer in 1969. Fittingly for a dark nature book that concerns the deaths of beloved animals. But it shouldn't distract from the power of his work, which is as good as any creative non-fiction published today, better in some ways, if you can look past who was responsible for the deaths. A minor classic. ( )
1 vote Stbalbach | Sep 29, 2021 |
  pszolovits | Feb 3, 2021 |
Originally published in 1959, Ring of Bright Water by Gavin Maxwell is a delightful memoir about the author’s life at a remote house on the coast of Western Scotland near the Hebrides. His descriptions of the location and the bountiful nature he was surrounded by had this reader longing to visit this idyllic place. When he first arrived he was accompanied by his dog, Jonnie, but after the death of his beloved pet, he acquired an otter named Mijbil while on a trip to Iraq.

The author documents Mijbil’s delightful and mischievous behaviour, and many of the hilarious incidents reminded me of trying to contain a toddler. His curiosity was boundless and he had a need to examine everything that came his way. Unfortunately, Mijbil met an untimely death and the author was devastated. Although he tried to replace Mijbil, nothing seemed to pan out for him until quite by accident he met a couple who had a young otter that they needed to find a home for. Once again his highland cottage was sanctuary to an otter, this time a female called Edal.

The author’s love of nature brings a richness to the descriptive writing, and his visual images and observations make Ring of Bright Water a memorable read. Although in today’s world the author would be chided for bring these creatures out of their own environment, he was living in a different time and his love and care for these otter companions is both touching and admirable. ( )
2 vote DeltaQueen50 | Jan 2, 2021 |
Maxwell, a naturalist, is a beautiful, lyrical writer - I loved his descriptions of the land and sea around his home at Sandaig where he lived almost as a recluse. After the death of his beloved dog Jonnie he decided he did not want another dog and instead chose an otter as companion. The second part of the book describes how he found Mijbil when working with Wilfred Thesiger in Iraq, the difficulties in getting him back to Britain, installing him in his London flat, taking him on walks through the streets of London, shopping in Harrods, getting him by train to Sandaig... He only had Mij for a year until he met his cruel fate in the shape of a lorry driver called Big Angus (like Maxwell, I would have wanted to bash his skull in ) and eventually found, quite by chance, a domesticated female otter to take his place. Life with the otters is delightful, entertaining and endearing; but you feel that tug of anxiety you have with teenage children when you let them have their freedom but lie awake worrying when they are late coming home. Maxwell the man is hard to grasp; I wish he had not killed the fox family at the beginning of the book (or not written about it, or missed it out), and for all the care - the love - he bestowed upon Mij and Edal, I keep thinking they should have been left in their natural habitat. I gave this four stars instead of five because it has left me feeling very sad. ( )
1 vote overthemoon | Jan 23, 2018 |
Famous book. Strange author. ( )
  mnicol | Oct 30, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Maxwell, Gavinprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Driscoll, BarryCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zwiers, M.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For John Donald
and Mary MacLeod of Tormor
First words

He has married me with a ring, a ring of bright water
Whose ripples travel from the heart of the sea,
He has married me with a ring of light, the glitter
Broadcast on the swift river. ...
Chapter One

I sit in a pitch-pine panelled kitchen-living-room, with an otter asleep upon its back among the cushions on the sofa, forepaws in the air, and with the expression of tightly shut concentration that very small babies wear in sleep.
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Ring of Bright Water is an autobiographical work by Gavin Maxwell. Hailed a masterpiece when it was first published, the story of Gavin Maxwell's life with otters on the remote west coast of Scotland remains one of the most lyrical, moving descriptions of a man's relationship with the natural world.

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