Despite the association of peregrines with the wild outer reaches of the British Isles, The Peregrine is set on the flat marshes of the Essex coast, where J. A. Baker spent a long winter looking at and writing about the visitors from the uplands - peregrines that spend the winter hunting the huge flocks of pigeons and waders that share the desolate landscape with them.
Such luminaries as Ted Hughes and Andrew Motion have cited this as one of the most important books in 20th century nature writing, and the best-selling nature writer Mark Cocker has provided an introduction on the importance of Baker and his work.
Among fragments of letters to Baker was one from a reader who praised a piece that Baker had written in RSPB Birds magazine in 1971. Apart from a paper on peregrines which Baker wrote for the Essex Bird Report, this article - entitled 'On the Essex Coast' - appears to be his only other published piece of writing, and, with the agreement of the RSPB, it has been included in this updated new edition of Baker's astounding work.
"...an inspiring example to future writers, and a gift to lovers of nature." ( The Times Literary Supplement)
"...a literary masterpiece, one of the 20th century's outstanding examples of nature writing." ( The Independent)
" The Peregrine should be known as one of the finest works on nature ever written." ( BBC Wildlife)
"...some of the most marvellous prose of the twentieth century." ( Literary Review)
"A tour de force...what can I do except praise writing which involves all the senses? This book goes altogether outside the bird-book into literature." ( The Sunday Times)
"A rapt and remarkable book...his phrases have a magnesium-flare intensity." ( The Observer)
"...what is certain is that The Peregrine is the most precise and poetic account of a bird - possibly of any non-human creature - ever written in English prose." ( The Daily Telegraph)
"J. A. Baker's poetic prose has a hard intensity and an exquisite lyric grace that takes it far beyond the stereotypical stuff of larks ascending and questing voles. Cruelly beautiful and brutally exact, it sees the countryside anew to give us nature in the wild and in the raw." ( The Scotsman)
"Including original diaries from which The Peregrine was written and its companion volume, The Hill of Summer, this is a beautiful compendium of lyrical nature writing at its absolute best.... For those with an interest in the Peregrine Falcon or classic natural history writing." ( The Guardian)
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Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Joey on 25-06-17
Wrong narrator, but right book.
Wrong choice of narrator, in my opinion; he sounds to jovial for a book which, in the end, is quite dark – both in its obsessive portrayal of the killing which belies natural beauty, and the exiled status of Man. For all that, it's an astonishing and galvanising book; thanks to Robert MacFarlane in Landmarks for unfolding its dark magic.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
By Serena on 18-02-18
Great book - terrible choice in voice actor
The voice actor talks far too fast making it hard to follow the fantastic writing. I honestly have to read the book at a constant 80% speed. He's also far too cheery as a voice actor for this book. I don't know why he got this piece. He would be great for other books, maybe, but not this.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Amazon Customer on 24-04-17
A classic ode to wildness
It's difficult for me to rate this beautiful book because I want to give it 6 stars overall even though for me the performance didn't work.
The author so dazzled me with the artfulness of his language and observation that I had to go out and buy a copy of the book to hold in my hands in order to reread many passages I'd just finished.
The performer here has the lively British accent that would seem appropriate for the British countryside however his reading has a stylized sameness of rhythm that I found difficult. The author is so understatedly reverent and so present with nature and with words that the book seems to demand an authentic voice to read it to us. Alas. (My being an American woman may well have made this more distracting to me so I'd recommend you listen to an excerpt to check it out for yourself.)
There really is no story here and it doesn't matter. Given the rare opportunity for developing intimacy with wild beasts (and the heart of the author) I found this book to be a thriller that turned pages all by themselves.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
By Jean on 15-05-17
I am aware of the Peregrine Falcon as the University of California Santa Cruz has a big Peregrine project to save the bird. The use of DDT had brought a number of local birds almost to extinction such as the Peregrine Falcone, the California Condor and the Brown Pelican. The project has been successful and there are a number of breeding pairs making nests in Bay Area buildings. Some of these building have installed webcam so the public can watch the hatching of the eggs and then watch the baby birds.
The author undertook a year-long study of the Peregrine. He followed birds around East Anglia (England). He explored their life style and the habitat of the bird. In many ways, the book is like his diary of his observations of the Peregrine. Baker’s prose had many wonderful passages that sounded more like poetry. My only complaint about the book is that at times Baker was repetitive. The book was originally published in 1967. This is the 50th anniversary edition of the book.
The book is about seven and half hours long. Dugald Bruce-Lockhart did a good job narrating the book. Lockhart is a classic trained actor and award winning audiobook narrator. He is from the United Kingdom.
4 of 5 people found this review helpful