"What would happen, I wondered, if I simply missed out the fifty per cent of the population whose voices have been credited with shaping this particular 'cultural form'. If I coppiced the woodland, so to speak, and allowed the light to shine down to the forest floor and illuminate countless saplings now that a gap has opened in the canopy. . ."
This landmark anthology brings together the work of over a hundred women, from the fourteenth century to the present day, who have written about the natural world in Britain, Ireland and the outlying islands of our archipelago. Alongside the traditional forms of the travelogue – the walking guide, observations of birds, plants and wildlife – Women on Nature embraces alternative modes of seeing and recording that turn the genre on its head.
Katharine Norbury has sifted through the pages of women's fiction, poetry, gardening diaries and recipe books to show the multitude ways in which women have observed the natural world from the religious writing of the anchorite Julian of Norwich to the seventeenth-century travel journal of Celia Fiennes; from the exquisite poetry of Emily Brontë to the adventurous mountaineering journal of Dorothy Pilley.
Featuring new writing by Nancy Campbell, Sara Evans, Sinéad Gleeson, Amy Liptrot, Helen Mort and Anita Sethi, and classic extracts from the work of Kate Bradbury, Melissa Harrison, Kathleen Jamie, Jackie Kay, Helen Macdonald, Sara Maitland, Irenosen Okojie and Jini Reddy alongside new voices from across the archipelago, Women on Nature presents a ground-breaking vision of the natural world that is of unique importance in terms of women's history and the history of writing about nature.
Katharine Norbury is the author of The Fish Ladder, which was shortlisted for the 2016 Wainwright Prize, longlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and was a Book of the Year in the Guardian, Telegraph and Observer newspapers. She is a literary critic for the Observer and has contributed travel pieces to the Guardian and Lonely Planet magazine.
"A fine, rare and landmark collection of nature writing, both prose and poetry, all by female writers"
– Deborah Warner, The Times
"This collection not only helps to illuminate historical and contemporary voices, but also makes you reconsider the meaning of the nature writing genre"
– Jane Adams, BBC Wildlife
"The writing is sure and precise. It is definite, luminous and strong"
– Julie Brominicks, BBC Countryfile
"This gorgeous doorstop of a book [...] Its sheer scope is dazzling [...] Katharine Norbury has done an impeccable job and a huge service to anyone wanting to stroll off the beaten track"
– Caught by the River
"I've been waiting eagerly for this. And now it's here! A veritable tumble through brilliance spanning centuries and uniting great writers"
– Rob Cowen
"Women on Nature is a boundary breaker. It seeks to bring down barriers on gender, geopolitics, genre, or those between humans and nature and within nature itself – the wild versus the cultivated and domesticated"
– Daily Post
"An expansive and brilliant anthology of writing by women about place, landscape and the natural world in the east Atlantic archipelago. Featuring Nan Shepherd and so many of our favourite nature writers – a must read!"
– Nan Shepherd Prize Book of the Week
"Refreshing and evocative, Women on Nature reveals the need to mend the frayed places between nature and humankind, and rather than record the natural world's dying, act together on behalf of its thriving"
– Kristine Morris, Foreword
"An entertaining and eclectic anthology [...] For readers in search of a new take on the genre, this is a great place to start"
– Publishers Weekly