"Animals don't exist to teach us things, but that is what they have always done, and most of what they teach us is what we think we know about ourselves."
From the bestselling author of H is for Hawk comes Vesper Flights, a transcendent collection of essays about the human relationship to the natural world.
Helen Macdonald brings together a collection of her best-loved writing along with new pieces covering a thrilling range of subjects. There are essays here on headaches, on catching swans, on hunting mushrooms, on twentieth-century spies, on numinous experiences and high-rise buildings; on nests and wild pigs and the tribulations of farming ostriches.
Vesper Flights is a book about observation, fascination, time, memory, love and loss and how we make the world around us. Moving and frank, personal and political, it confirms Helen Macdonald as one of this century's greatest nature writers.
Helen Macdonald is a writer, poet, naturalist and historian of science. Her book H is for Hawk won many prizes, including the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction, the Costa Book of the Year, the Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger in France, and in the US was shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award. She is a frequent contributor to the New York Times Magazine, and lives in Suffolk.
"Thrilling dispatches from a vanishing world [...] A powerful – and entertaining – corrective to the idea that the only hopes that matter on this planet are those of our own species."
– Tim Adams, Observer
"Vesper Flights is a book of ideas and urgent, beautiful writing [...] [Macdonald] is a writer whose every word is to be cherished."
– Tom Lathan, Spectator
"Helen Macdonald is one of the best nature writers now working."
– Simon Ings, Telegraph *Books of the Year*
An antidote to so much romantic, reductive writing about the natural world [...] Macdonald's writing teems with other voices and perspectives, with her own challenges to herself. It muddies any facile ideas about nature and the human, and prods at how we pleat our prejudices, politics and desires into our notions of the animal world [...] Hers is a gritty, companionable intimacy with the wild [...] The essays [...] are short, varied and highly edible."
– Parul Sehgal, New York Times
"Nature writing at its best [...] Helen Macdonald's eagerly awaited first book since H is for Hawk in 2014 is [...] all kinds of wondrous [...] I wanted to savour it, spinning it out across weeks, one chapter per evening, like a sort of lockdown Forty and One Nights of my own [...] Each and every essay reminded me what a gifted writer Macdonald is. Her prose is poetry but it also has a drenching kind of a clarity. And this is good because we shouldn't allow ourselves to be lulled by the sheer pleasure of reading her. For these are urgent pieces designed to open our eyes."
– Caroline Sanderson, Bookseller *Book of the Month*
"H is for Hawk turned many a reader into a goshawk fan [...] This lyrical essay collection also explores human relationships with the natural world, but has a wider scope, taking in a search for the last golden orioles in Suffolk's poplar forests and swan-upping on the Thames."
– Country Living
"From reflections on her childhood love of animals to sharp observations on the migrations of songbirds, the author of H is for Hawk fills her essay collection with vivid appreciation for the wildlife that surrounds us."
– Time Magazine, *Summer Reads 2020*
"This nature writer's long-awaited follow-up to her influential 2014 memoir H is for Hawk is a treat: dive into essays about headaches and high-rises, catching swans and farming ostriches."
– Daily Telegraph
"[Macdonald's] prose is poetic but it also has a drenching clarity [...] These are urgent pieces designed to open our eyes to the parlous state of the environment [...] Vesper Flights is a vital book for now because it [...] shows us that in respecting this diversity lies both the joy and unity of our own species."
– Charlotte Heathcote, Sunday Express