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March 15, 2013 11:15 pm
A Slow Passion: Snails, My Garden and Me, by Ruth Brooks, Bloomsbury, RRP£12.99, 256 pages
Ruth Brooks is not a scientist. She is a mother, a gardener, a septuagenarian, but not a scientist. So it came as a surprise when she won the BBC’s Amateur Scientist of the Year Award 2010 – for proving that the common garden snail has a homing instinct.
Part memoir, part science experiment, A Slow Passion tells of Brooks’ initial hatred for snails (and their insatiable appetite for her vegetables and flowers) and how this became an equally insatiable curiosity about Cornu aspersum and the natural world. Fittingly, perhaps, it starts at a snail’s pace, but picks up when Brooks starts talking facts and hypotheses. Having tried and failed to rid her garden of snails, she eventually resorts to forcible relocation. Yet, the snails always come back, so she decides to investigate.
A Slow Passion is sweet, informative, and sure to cheer exasperated gardeners.
Review by Charlie McCann
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Turned Out Nice Again: On Living With the Weather, by Richard Mabey, Profile Books, RRP£8.99, 96 pages
In Turned Out Nice Again, nature writer Richard Mabey has collected observations, quotations and anecdotes to illustrate how climate has shaped Britain’s culture.
“Air-songs and Moon-bows” details arcane meteorological phenomena such as the great winds that blow “40 million tonnes of desert” from Chad to the Amazon; “Black Dog” teases out the weather’s role in seeding ideas of the supernatural. Tracing the etymology of “halcyon days” (from Mediterranean mythology concerning the kingfisher, alkuon in Greek), Mabey recalls a morning that “became halcyon” through the bird’s visitation: it “stood in for the sun, becoming a thread in that complex weave of metaphor, ancient association and real experience through which we make sense of the weather.”
Mabey’s prose moves lightly between myth and memoir, infusing everyday weather with a little glamour
Review by James Vincent
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