In July 2019, Ben Goldsmith lost his fifteen-year-old daughter, Iris, in an accident on their family farm in Somerset. Iris's death left her family reeling.
Grasping for answers, Ben threw himself into searching for some ongoing trace of his beloved child, exploring ideas that until then had seemed too abstract to mean much to him. Missing his daughter terribly and struggling to imagine how he would face the rest of his life in the shadow of this loss, Ben found solace in nature, the object of a lifelong fascination. As Ben set about rewilding his farm, nature became a vital source of meaning and hope.
This book is the story of a year of soul-searching that followed a terrible loss. In an instant, Ben's world had turned dark. Yet, unbelievably to him, the seasons kept on turning, and as he immersed himself in the dramatic restoration of nature in the place where it happened, he found healing.
In God Is an Octopus, Ben tells a powerful, immersive and inspiring story of finding comfort and strength in nature after suffering loss and despair.
Chapter One: Gone
Chapter Two: Grief
Chapter Three: Pond
Chapter Four: Autumn
Chapter Five: Medium
Chapter Six: Early Me
Chapter Seven: Circle
Chapter Eight: Caledonia
Chapter Nine: Wilding
Chapter Ten: Beavers
Chapter Eleven: Levels
Chapter Twelve: Bustards
Chapter Thirteen: Anniversary
Chapter Fourteen: Healing
Ben Goldsmith is a British environmentalist and financier. Ben is a leading light in the rewilding movement in Britain and Europe, as well as a pioneer of green investment. Ben and his wife are rewilding their farm in Somerset, and Ben has helped to establish a number of environmental initiatives, including the Environmental Funders' Network, the Conservative Environment Network, Rewilding Britain, Beaver Trust, and the Conservation Collective, a global network of locally focused environmental foundations. Ben was a Director at DEFRA for five years, successfully advocating for a series of ground-breaking environmental restoration policies during his tenure, including the new Environmental Land Management scheme, the Nature for Climate Fund and the Species Reintroductions task force. The Iris Project was established by Ben Goldsmith and Kate Rothschild in partnership with the Global Greengrants Fund in loving memory of their daughter, Iris Goldsmith, a young environmentalist who loved the natural world.
"From the deepest sorrow, the highest hope. Intensely readable, poetic, truthful, wise and wonderful, this will live with me for a very long time."
– Stephen Fry
"An event of unimaginable trauma is transformed into a message of beauty and optimism through Ben's passion for nature, which acts as his nurse, teacher and redeemer."
– Joanna Lumley
"Stunningly beautiful, immensely sad, immensely uplifting, this is a book of grief and joy and wonder and renewal."
– George Monbiot
"An extraordinarily powerful and moving journey through the darkest of griefs to the enduring love, hope and renewal of the natural world. A book of universal wisdom."
– Benedict Cumberbatch
"Beautiful and deeply moving, this will resonate with and inspire so many people."
– Isabella Tree
"Goldsmith has written an extraordinary book, God is an Octopus, about his journey through grief and his exploration of the afterlife."
– Audrey Ward, The Sunday Times
"Ben chronicles the unfathomable tragedy of his daughter's death with the profound love and compassion of a bereft parent."
– Richard E. Grant
"A compelling journey from the very heart of loss to the sanctuary and hope that only the natural world provides – emotive, raw and captivating."
– Benedict Macdonald, Winner of the Wainwright Prize for Global Conservation