It is the Winter Solstice and Sarah Sands is sitting by her father's bedside, bracing herself for loss. What her father needs to do, she thinks, is conserve his energy – to curl up and hibernate like a hedgehog in its bed of leaves.
A few days earlier, Sarah and her grandson had found an ailing hedgehog in the garden and taken it to the local hedgehog sanctuary. They named her Peggy, and her fate had become a matter of pressing concern. When death looms, it's easier to talk about hedgehogs…
There is something about these homely and yet mysterious creatures – prickly and defenceless, wild and tame – that, as Ted Hughes put it, makes us feel deeply sympathetic towards them. Hedgehogs have captured the imagination of poets and philosophers for centuries. They have managed to outlive roads, dogs, strimmers and pesticides, but now they are an endangered species.
For Sarah Sands, our failure to protect them is a symptom of our alienation from the living world. But all is not yet lost. In this charming, idiosyncratic book, she explores the meaning and morals of hedgehogs, and finds, in hedgehog world, a source of deep solace and wisdom.
Sarah Sands lives in Norfolk by the ruins of a medieval Cistercian abbey and in London by the remains of BBC Television Centre. In between editing two newspapers, Reader's Digest, and BBC Radio 4's Today programme, she has written three novels and an acclaimed work of non-fiction The Interior Silence (2021). She writes and broadcasts, chairs a political think tank, advises companies on strategy and communications and sits on the boards of Index on Censorship and London First. She is an honorary fellow of Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge, and Goldsmith's College, University of London.
"This charming book weaves hedgehogs into our hearts, our lives and our national identity."
– John Witherow
"Through this eccentric and humorous celebration of the hedgehog, we also learn about the loss of nature and those we love. A very moving and entertaining read."
– Martha Kearney
"A beautiful, moving and very personal book but also one with an important core message around the need to protect our natural world."
– Douglas Gurr, director of the Natural History Museum