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Good Reads  Habitats & Ecosystems  Wetlands

Fen, Bog and Swamp A Short History of Peatland Destruction and Its Role in the Climate Crisis

Nature Writing
By: Annie Proulx(Author)
196 pages, b/w photos
Publisher: Fourth Estate
Fen, Bog and Swamp
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  • Fen, Bog and Swamp ISBN: 9780008534431 Paperback Sep 2023 In stock
  • Fen, Bog and Swamp ISBN: 9780008534394 Hardback Sep 2022 Not in stock: Usually dispatched within 1-2 weeks
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About this book

Read an extended review on our blog.

*We have a very limited number of bookplates signed by Annie for this edition, available while stocks last

From Pulitzer Prize-winner Annie Proulx – whose novels are infused with her knowledge and deep concern for the earth – comes a riveting, revelatory history of our wetlands, their ecological role, and what their systematic destruction means for the planet.

A lifelong environmentalist, Annie Proulx brings her wide-ranging research and scholarship to the subject of wetlands and the vitally important yet little understood role they play in preserving the environment – by storing the carbon emissions that greatly contribute to climate change. Fens, bogs, swamps and marine estuaries are the earth's most desirable and dependable resources, and in four stunning parts, Proulx documents the long-misunderstood role of these wetlands in saving the planet.

Taking us on a fascinating journey through history, Proulx shows us the fens of 16th-century England to Canada's Hudson Bay lowlands, Russia's Great Vasyugan Mire, America's Okeefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, and the 19th-century explorers who began the destruction of the Amazon rainforest. Along the way, she writes of the diseases spawned in the wetlands – the Ague, malaria, Marsh Fever – and the surprisingly significant role of peat in industrialisation.

A sobering look at the degradation of wetlands over centuries and the serious ecological consequences, this is a stunningly important work and a rousing call to action by a writer whose passionate devotion to understanding and preserving the environment is on full and glorious display.

Customer Reviews


Annie Proulx is the author of nine books, including the novel The Shipping News, Barkskins and the story collection Close Range. Her many honours include a Pulitzer Prize, a National Book Award, the Irish Times International Fiction Prize, and a PEN/Faulkner award. Her story Brokeback Mountain, which originally appeared in The New Yorker, was made into an Academy Award-winning film. She lives in New Hampshire.

Nature Writing
By: Annie Proulx(Author)
196 pages, b/w photos
Publisher: Fourth Estate
Media reviews

"Proulx wants us to see the loss of wetlands – and to appreciate the beauty in these swampy and often stinking places. Boy, does she succeed. The prose is just magnificent, bringing to life hitherto overlooked habitats"

"Proulx's book is truly peat-ish: layered, learned, feisty, wildly discursive, and most certainly "undulating, dreaming [and] philosophizing""
– Richard Mabey, Telegraph

"A haunting tribute to the world's peatlands [...] Proulx's poetic description of these places, and peat itself, is a pleasure to read"
Financial Times

"This sobering history of our world's rich wetlands explains the chilling ecological consequences of their destruction"
New York Times Book Review

"An enchanting work of nature writing"

Delves into the history of peatland destruction and its role in the climate crisis [...] Proulx uses nimble prose to knit together scientific facts, personal experiences, and literary references while deciphering the nomenclature of these three subtly diverse wetlands which collectively hold the key to human history"

"A fierce declaration of peat's importance to climate stability and human survival"
New York Review of Books

[Proulx's] astute and impassioned examinations of all kinds of wetlands [...] show a new side of the novelist we thought we knew"
Los Angeles Times

"So often feared, dredged and drained, swamps, bogs and fens (it turns out) are just as vital to our species' survival on this planet as healthy forests and oceans – perhaps more so. Proulx has written a moving elegy and cri de coeur for our world's wetlands. I learned something new – and found something amazing – on every page"
– Anthony Doerr, author of All the Light We Cannot See and Cloud Cuckoo Land

"Talk about seeing the whole world through a single well-chosen window! Annie Proulx is, as ever, remarkable – her mind, her heart and her learning take us on an unforgettable and unflinching tour of past and present, fixed on a subject that could not be more important. A compact classic!"
– Bill McKibben

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