Then, just in time, before I swung the spade again, I saw, right by the blade and camouflaged by the leaves on the ground, a magpie chick. It squatted belligerently, peering up at me with miniature magpie fury. George.
When Frieda Hughes moved to the depths of the Welsh countryside, she was expecting to take on a few projects: planting a garden, painting and writing her poetry column for the Times. But instead, she found herself rescuing a baby magpie, the sole survivor of a nest destroyed in a storm – and embarking on an obsession that would change the course of her life.
As the magpie, George, grows from a shrieking scrap of feathers and bones into an intelligent, unruly companion, Frieda finds herself captivated – and apprehensive of what will happen when the time comes to finally set him free.
Born in London in 1960, Frieda Hughes is a painter and poet. She has written several children's books, eight collections of poetry, articles for magazines and newspapers, and was the Times Poetry columnist. As a painter, Frieda regularly exhibits in London and has a permanent exhibition at her private gallery in Wales, where she resides with 14 owls, two rescue huskies, an ancient Maltese terrier, five chinchillas, a ferret called 'Socks', a Royal python and her collection of motorbikes.
"A charming diary of life with a tame magpie – despite George's bad behaviour, it will render corvid lovers (like me) green with envy!"
– Katherine May, author Wintering
"In this funny, tender memoir, Frieda Hughes casts a brilliant light into her relationship with George, a member of the most beautiful and fascinating of avian species, the magpie. As she shows us the challenges, frustrations, anxieties, love and joy which may be gained by closeness to another being, Frieda Hughes perfectly illustrates how our lives may be enriched and expanded by the experience"
– Esther Woolfson, author Corvus
"There is an astringent beauty to Frieda Hughes' George. It's one of those books that appears to be about one thing-in this case, hand-rearing the eponymous orphan magpie-whilst being about something altogether more profound: love, loss and how inextricably linked they are. Love comes alive in Hughes' pages as an act of acute attentiveness. Loss lingers in the margins, but George doesn't baulk at the shadows. Instead, this book pulses with a defiant wonder at the living world, as wild and unruly as our feathered hero."
– Polly Morland, author A Fortunate Woman: A Country Doctor's Story
"Reading this book was like coming home. You'll be transported to Frieda's kitchen table in Wales, where she'll tell you her moving and funny story over a steaming mug of tea – three dogs on her lap – and a magpie perched on her head. Yet more proof – if it were needed – of how connecting to the wildlife around us has the power to put our troubles into perspective, teach us lessons about life, and provide solace for a bruised soul. Curl up in a comfy chair, make yourself a large pot of tea, and immerse yourself in the world of Frieda and George. You won't regret it"
– Charlie Corbett, author 12 Birds to Save Your Life: Nature's Lessons in Happiness
"George the magpie trashes the author's house, terrifies the cleaning lady, and helps tank her failing marriage – and yet you cannot help falling madly in love with him. Frieda Hughes observes this little black and white bird with the meticulous eye of a naturalist and the penetrating lyricism and of a poet. This book is a joy from beginning to end"
– Sy Montgomery, author The Soul of an Octopus
"With irresistible humour and heart, Frieda invites us along on her unlikely journey toward joy and connection [...] you will fall in love with wildlife"
– OX Magazine