When Jonathan Franklin takes two baby tawny owls back to Eton, he has no idea how chaotic the following months will be. The birds show no respect for Etonian routine and tradition. They trash his room and rule his daily life, and are known throughout the school as 'Dum' and 'Dee'. Although a keen naturalist, Jonathan struggles to understand his charges and to find the right food for them; at first meat and feathers, soon mice and rats. Even so, they nearly die of malnutrition on two occasions. Frantic, he searches for natural food. How to keep them alive is a constant worry. He watches them grow from ugly balls of fluff into beautiful adults, every change of plumage and behaviour noted. They play truant, they shock others, and lead Jonathan into hilarious adventures. They charm his housemaster and everybody who meets them. Best of all is seeing them flying about over those famous playing fields. All the time, Jonathan works to train them for eventual return to the wild. Will that be possible? He is never sure whether he will succeed.
Originally published in 1960, now updated by the author to tell the end of this extraordinary story, Two Owls at Eton – very British, very witty, yet always close to the rawness of the natural world – is a story to delight everyone – whether they ever trod those playing fields, or have never wished to set eyes on the place.
Jonathan Franklin wrote Two Owls at Eton while still at school. Published in 1960, a month before he left, it was serialised in the London Evening Standard and was in that paper's top-ten bestsellers list for a fortnight. In 2010 Country Life listed it as one of its five best nature books. Jonathan spent the next decade living and farming in Brazil. He is currently completing his novel Red Road Green; a love story set amid the destruction of the Amazon rainforest. He lives in Suffolk.