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.
"Gaw finds wonder in the dark [...] The stand-out chapter for me was his getting lost in the Woods of Cree in absolute pitch black. Deep primordial horrors arise and make for gripping reading [...] This is a powerful and valiant plea for us all to see that, unlike in science fiction, light isn't always good."
– BBC Countryfile Magazine
"Under starlight and in moonlight, in the depths of the dark forest and on the streets of a city centre, Gaw goes on a nocturnal adventure to discover how light pollution disrupts and affects our own mental wellbeing, and the wellbeing of wildlife, too. En route he re-discovers the beauties of meteor showers and moonlight meanders, and encourages us to go on our own midnight adventures. Lyrical and lovely."
– The Simple Things
"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
"Passionately argued and perfectly crafted [...] Under the Stars is a timely and inspiring manifesto explaining how 'by lighting our world sparingly, carefully [...] we can achieve something that would improve human health, protect wildlife, and help us to reconnect to the landscape and starscape at night'."
– The Countryman
"An exquisite, lyrical blend of nature writing, mythical story-telling and poetic elegy [...] Words are given to us in this book as a form of protection, an armour, a glistening cloak with which to keep ourselves on the track; no matter how cold it may be [...] Stunning."
– Kerri ni Dochartaigh, Caught By the River (Book of the Month)
"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