Moonlight, starlight, the ethereal glow of snow in winter ... When you flick off a switch, other forms of light begin to reveal themselves.
Artificial light is everywhere. Not only is it damaging to humans and to wildlife, disrupting our natural rhythms, but it obliterates the subtler lights that have guided us for millennia. In this beautifully written exploration of the power of light, Matt Gaw ventures forth into darkness to find out exactly what we're missing: walking by the light of the moon in Suffolk and under the scattered buckshot of starlight in Scotland; braving the darkest depths of Dartmoor; investigating the glare of 24/7 London and the suburban sprawl of Bury St Edmunds; and, finally, rediscovering a sense of the sublime on the Isle of Coll.
Under the Stars is an inspirational and immersive call to reconnect with the natural world, showing how we only need to step outside to find that, in darkness, the world lights up.
Matt Gaw is a writer, journalist and naturalist who lives in Bury St Edmunds, and is the author of the acclaimed The Pull of the River: A Journey into the Wild and Watery Heart of Britain (E&T, 2017). His work has been published in the Guardian, the Telegraph and the Times. He works with the Suffolk Wildlife Trust, edits Suffolk Wildlife, currently writes a monthly country diary for the Suffolk Magazine and is a director of the Suffolk Festival of Ideas.
"Matt Gaw shows once again that he is one of the most inspiring of our young nature writers, with a highly original journey into darkness and night"
– Stephen Moss, naturalist and author of The Robin: A Biography
"Enchanting, fascinating and written with real soul and sensitivity. Under the Stars lifts the mind and the imagination"
– Rob Cowen, author of Common Ground
"Lyrical, warm, and suffused with the magic of the night, Under the Stars does what all the best books do – it changes the way we look at our world"
– Patrick Barkham, author of The Butterfly Isles
"We live a large part of our lives in darkness, or so we should do, as the artificial lights of houses, streets, shops, offices, towns and cities have pushed true night away from us, obscuring the stars and the vast mystery of the "glittering infinity", as well as unstitching the ancient and abiding relationship we've had with the heavens. In Under the Stars, Matt Gaw sets about restoring that severed connection, walking paths through perpetually lit London and across lightless islands and through darkened woods in search of what we've lost and, more importantly, what can still be regained, revealing terms and experiences as wondrous as the phenomena they describe: earthshine, night sun, airglow. Under the Stars is a beautiful and – no other word is more apt – luminous love letter to the night sky. A book that will immediately make you want to go outside and look up."
– Julian Hoffman, author of Irreplaceable