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A journey of 6,000 miles across two continents and fourteen countries is nothing to swallows: they do it twice a year. But for a writer and birdwatcher, this is the expedition of a lifetime. By trains, cars, buses, motorbikes, trucks, canoes, planes, one camel and three ships, Horatio Clare followed migrating swallows (Hirundo rustica) from reed beds outside Bloemfontein, where millions roost in February, to a barn in Wales, where a pair nest in May. From the slums of Cape Town to the palaces of Algiers, through Pygmy villages where pineapples grow wild, to the Gulf of Guinea where the sea blazes with oil flares, "A Single Swallow" is a journey through the modern world to the tune of an ancient rhythm.
It is a story of old empires and modern tribes, of the horrors of power and the wonders of kindness. It includes a witch-doctor's recipe for stewed swallow, explains how to travel without money or a passport, describes a terrifying incident involving three Spanish soldiers and a tiny orange dog, betrays several swallow secrets and proves that Wales exists only because of Ryan Giggs. It also tests the wisdom of an ancient piece of hearsay: the Zulus say that those who follow the swallows never come back ...Magical, inspiring, beautifully written with passion and purpose, "A Single Swallow" is a thrilling book about the intersection of the natural and the human worlds, sending shivers down the spine and lifting the heart.
Horatio Clare is the author of Running for the Hills, Sicily through Writers' Eyes and Truant: Notes from the Slippery Slope. Nominated for the Guardian First Book Award 2006 and shortlisted for the Sunday Times Young Writer of the year, the journey for this book was partly financed by a Somerset Maugham Award. He has made radio features in Morocco, written about Ethiopia for the New Statesman, and been commissioned by CondeNast Traveller to write on Sicily and Namibia. He has worked as a producer for the BBC Radio Arts unit, on 'Night Waves' and 'The Verb', and presented a Radio 4 documentary on Thames life boats.
A hell of a journey The Times The author deploys some fine lyrical writing and a gift for inventive, unexpected metaphor ... Clare's other great asset is his brave, modern, multicultural and open-hearted approach to travel itself Guardian Clare has produced an enthusiastic, often elegiac, chronicle of his encounters with the swallows The Sunday Times Clare is a gifted and lyrical travel writer, excellent at conveying atmospheres and good at making contact with all sorts of people ... a sensitive and intelligent observer Financial Times Fizzingly entertaining. His own prose has something of their flight: daring, sharp-edged, fast-moving, graceful, full of surprises. This is a great adventure, thrillingly realised Literary Review Remarkably insightful and entertaining, with Clare proving himself to be the most enthusiastic, open-minded, intelligent and incorrigibly romantic of travellers. Mail on Sunday His eye for detail and his elegant pen give flavour of each country he crosses: great veldt and high plateaux, Congo's "green vastness", the "sandy seas" of the Sahel and, finally, the fertile plain of the north African coast The Economist The resulting book, travel writing at its very best, is enthralling, passionate, hair-raising, quirky, hilarious, informative, occasionally mad and utterly, utterly brilliant... irresistible stuff. Daily Mail Horatio Clare pays tribute to the extraordinary migratory journeys of the swallow...a book that combines travel with natural history. Metro, Shelf Space: Bird Books to Try