A masterpiece of nature writing from the author of The Running Sky
One December, in midsummer South Africa, Tim Dee was watching swallows. They were at home there, but the same birds would soon begin journeying north to Europe, where their arrival marks the beginning of spring.
Between the winter and the summer solstice in Europe, spring moves north at about the speed of swallow flight. That is also close to human walking pace. In the light of these happy coincidences, Greenery recounts how Tim Dee tries to travel with the season and its migratory birds, making remarkable journeys to keep in step with the very best days of the year, the time of buds and blossoms and leafing, the time of song and nests and eggs. After South Africa, we follow European migrants staging in Chad and Ethiopia, and on across the colossal and incomprehensible Sahara. We accompany storks venturing the Straits of Gibraltar, honey buzzards dodging Sicilian hunters, and tiny landbirds finding haven on the curious island of Heligoland. A diary of the spring spreading through Britain with a magic trinity of oak-tree-loving birds interleaves the continental greening. We read of other determined spring-seekers: D. H. Lawrence and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. We hear from a Sámi reindeer herder, a barn-dwelling swallow-devotee, an Egyptian taxi driver, a chronobiologist in arctic Norway. There are bears and boars and bog-bodies too.
Greenery is a masterpiece of nature writing, deeply informed, expansive and often profoundly beautiful. Tim Dee’s journey ends where the greenery of the European spring ends: on the shores of the Arctic Ocean in northern Scandinavia, where, yes, there are swallows in midsummer as there were at the Cape of Good Hope in December.
A joyful, poetic hymn to spring...[by] one of our greatest living nature writers... Greenery is an education in looking at, and loving, nature… It is a lesson in how to love the world, in how to look at it, and behind everything there beats a deeper message: that spring cannot exist without winter, that life needs death to define it.
This book has changed the way I think about seasons and migration, humans and birds, time and life. He is a virtuoso handler of sound, knowledge and language. It's a masterpiece. I can't imagine I'll ever stop thinking about it.
A masterpiece of nature writing… No one else in the genre shows anything like Dee’s command of prose, tone, voice, pace, depth and phrasing… It’s the sort of book that, in its expressive power, its creativity, the richness of its humanity, might make the world worth saving.
“Nature Writing”, says the classification on the back. Partly true. He’s good at that. But leaving it there is a bit like saying that Wordsworth was a gardener and Springsteen is a harmonica player. Dee is one of our best living writers of non-fiction, and Greenery...is perhaps his best book yet… It couldn’t be more timely.
A superb nature writer… Miraculous… Ardent, playful, quietly subversive – this is how Dee has always written, but his originality and learning mean he never needs to resort to the devotional swooning that has always plagued writing about the non-human world… It’s a deeply affecting [ending]… The effect is like a painter’s varnish, deepening shadows but intensifying colours. You go back to the start.