This past year, author of H is for Hawk, Helen MacDonald published her latest book, Vesper Flights. It is a diverse collection of 41 essays about the human relationship to nature. From Mars to murmurations, mushroom hunting, migraines, and much more, Macdonald gifts us poetic, meditative, and moving insights into the natural world around us and our place in it. The book can be read in any order with intriguingly named chapters such as “Nothing Like a Pig,” “Eclipse,” “Swan Upping,” “Tekels Park,” “In Her Orbit,” “The Arrow-Stork,” “Dispatches From the Valley,” and “The Numinous Ordinary.”
The places Macdonald takes us are as varied as the topics she writes on: the top of the Empire State Building, through woods in Sussex and Kent, across lakes in Hungry, up mountains in South America, along the Irish coast, and more.
Whether writing about nature, grief, or personal memoir, Macdonald is known for her elegant, extraordinary prose that captivates her readers. At the same time, she informs us and we are again treated to her incredible, personal, passionate, and thoughtful observations and experiences. It is reading to savor.
The Washington Post writes, “Vesper Flights is a book of tremendous purpose. Throughout these essays, Macdonald revisits the ideas that as a writer it is her responsibility to take stock of what’s happening to the natural world and to convey the value of the living things within it.”
I usually like to ‘gift my books forward,’ but this is one I will selfishly keep: to re-read, reflect on, react to, and find hope in these complicated and challenging times.
Book review by EV Diane McCoy