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Good Reads  Natural History  Regional Natural History  Natural History of Europe

Elixir A Voyage into Alchemy

Nature Writing New
By: Kapka Kassabova(Author)
380 pages, b/w illustrations, 1 b/w map
Publisher: Vintage
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  • Elixir ISBN: 9781529920475 Paperback Feb 2024 In stock
  • Elixir ISBN: 9781787333260 Hardback Feb 2023 Not in stock: Usually dispatched within 5 days
Selected version: £10.99
About this book Customer reviews Biography Related titles

About this book

In the valley of the Mesta, Bulgaria, one of the oldest inhabited river valleys in Europe, where the surrounding forests and mountains are a nexus for wild plant gatherers, Kapka Kassabova finds a story with vast resonance for us all. Elixir is an unforgettable exploration of the deep connections between people, plants and place.

Over several seasons, Kassabova spends time with the people of this magical region. She meets women and men who work in a long lineage of foragers, healers and mystics. She learns about wild plants and the ancient practice of herbalism, and experiences a symbiotic system where nature and culture have blended for thousands of years. Through her captivating encounters we come to feel the devastating weight of the ecological and cultural disinheritance that the people of this valley have suffered. Yet, in her search for elixir, she also finds reasons for hope. The people of the valley are keepers of a rare knowledge, not only of mountain plants and their properties, but also of how to transform collective suffering into healing.

Immersive and enthralling, at its heart Elixir is a search for a cure to what ails us in the Anthropocene. It is an urgent call to rethink how we live – in relation to one another, to the Earth and to the cosmos.

Customer Reviews


Kapka Kassabova is a writer of narrative non-fiction, poetry and fiction. She grew up in Sofia, Bulgaria, was university educated in New Zealand, and since 2005 has lived in Scotland. In Border (2017) and To the Lake (2020) she explored the human geography of the southern Balkans. Border won the 2018 British Academy Prize for Global Cultural Understanding, the 2018 Edward Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year, the 2017 Saltire Society Book of the Year, the 2018 Highland Book Prize, and a number of European awards. To the Lake was awarded France's Best Foreign Book of Non-Fiction in 2021, and her work is translated into twenty languages.

Nature Writing New
By: Kapka Kassabova(Author)
380 pages, b/w illustrations, 1 b/w map
Publisher: Vintage
Media reviews

"The mark of a good book is that it changes you [...] I've rarely been so aware of an internal change being wrought, word by word, as I have these past days immersed in Kapka Kassabova's alchemical prose [...] she had me under her spell from page one."
Guardian, Book of Day

"Her ability to bring out the best in her subjects is born of a genuine horror at the unsustainability of the ways we live and the toll they are taking on places such as the Mesta valley. But Elixir is not a lecture [...] Like the forests and fells it inhabits, it is by turns dark and mysterious and beautiful. Ecologically minded writing can often tell too much and show too little, but Kassabova sensibly lets the landscape and locals do the talking."
Financial Times

"Uplifting and beautifully written [...] Kassabova's book [...] provide[s] a glorious cycle of stories and personal testimonies."

"Subtle prose that mingles empathy with perspective."

"A laudable attempt to record an endangered region and a disappearing way of life."
Times Literary Supplement

BBC Wildlife

"Humanity glitters under her gaze in all its facets. Her prose is spectacularly good and her storytelling is a joy."
– Philip Marsden

"This is a book to make you feel."

"Extraordinary [...] She allows her book to grow and swell, like a symphony, expanding and deepening its themes until the traditional wisdom and life of the mountain envelopes you entirely. Rather like a spell, in fact."
Country Life

"In her captivating latest, Kassabova transports us to the Mesta River in her native Bulgaria [...] Kassabova finds hope that this ancient knowledge still has the power to heal us."
Bookseller, Editor's Choice

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