Into the Tangled Bank by Lev Parikian

5 out of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

For some people, the idea of a nice afternoon out is to drive to a picturesque place and wind the car window down and enjoy the view. The thought of venturing out into the unsanitised countryside is just too much. There are some who are the other extreme, those that think nothing of taking a long weekend to hit the hills and sleep in a ditch. Parikian is somewhere in the middle of these two extremes, wanting to go and see these things for himself, striding out to get there, but also taking the time to dawdle when he has arrived. But if you were to come across him in his semi-natural environment, you are as likely to find him spending a fair amount of time lounging about on the ground. He is sometimes looking for lichens and at other times trying to take a photo of a lizard; both instances gain him some strange looks…

He is inspired by some of the great nature writers that we have had in this country and takes a bit of a pilgrimage to see their natural habitats, including Darwin, Clare, Lemon and getting really annoyed by the campervans on Skye when he visits Maxwell’s house. Like them he tries to keep a notebook that is his nature diary, it is a woeful and incomplete mishmash of all manner of things, but it is still his way of trying to keep a record of the natural world as it happens.

His first book Why Do Birds Suddenly Disappear was exclusively about birds, but in this, he considers all types of nature, from butterflies and moths, mammals and trees. He still likes spotting birds though, missing a hobby by moments, even after the person that was in the hide with, runs after him to tell him about it. He goes to see the beluga whale in the Thames and after milling around for a while, is told it is 200 yards further upstream.

I really like his conversational style of writing, accessible and informative without feeling that you are listening to someone who is going to reel of vast swathes of facts. This is another really funny book from Parikian. I am not sure that natural history books are supposed to be funny, but I am really glad this one is. He has some forthright opinions, that museums are full of too many dead things, and he much prefers the great and not so great outdoors. especially in the interlude where it becomes a proper rant! It is a reminder too, that you don’t need to head to the Galapagos Islands to get your fill of nature, it is all around us, just outside your back door, down that slightly overgrown path or when you find the eight-legged arachnid that is waiting in your bath for you. Mostly this is a personal story of a man who realises that he might have come to the natural world a bit later that he really wanted to and is trying his hardest to catch up on those missed years.

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2 Comments

  1. Liz Dexter

    Great review and I completely agree. I have reviewed this for Shiny New Books today!

    • Paul

      Thank you, Liz

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