The Jay, The Beech and the Limpetshell by Richard Smyth [8/10]

Nature and wilderness often receive ponderous, dramatized treatment that undercuts the messages. From its very title, ”The Jay, The Beech and the Limpetshell: Finding Wild Things with My Kids” takes another tack. A fluent, intelligent stylist, Richard Smyth opts this time for a gentle, undemonstrative style that matches his framework, his meanderings with his young family through the wilds and not-so-wilds of Yorkshire. Artfully peppering his musings with reflections on the musings of others, the author illuminates key issues in our human connections with nature (especially in a country as far from true wildness as England). The author muses about what his parental focus on wandering in the wild will lead to with his children: “…they’ll figure out, soon enough, what they want to do about it all. Maybe just watch. Maybe just think. Maybe just care. That’s fine too.” Such clear, conversational language conveys so much impact! And do not mistake the pared down language in this book as lack of sophistication; I had to look up a number of strange, most apt words such as “lour” (look angry or sullen). An undercurrent of climate change dread surfaces again and again, yet the author confesses that much of his own behavior is conditioned by his past. As soon as I concluded The Jay, the Beech and the Limpetshell, I diarised a second reading, this is one book that is bound to keep revealing.

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