'A prodigy, a book of wonders. Wonder, pity and terror, the searing section of voices in transit coercing compassion – and beyond that, empathy’ Independent
Home is where you start from, but where is a swallow's real home? And what does 'native' mean if the English oak is an immigrant from Spain?
In ninety richly varied poems and illuminating prose interludes, Ruth Padel's original new book weaves science, myth, wild nature and human history to conjure a world created and sustained by migration - from the millennia-old journeys of cells, trees, birds and beasts to Geese battle raging winds over Mount Everest, lemurs skim precipices in Madagascar and wildebeest, at the climax of their epic trek from Tanzania, braving a river filled with the largest crocodiles in Africa.
Human migration has shaped civilisation but today is one of the greatest challenges the world faces. In a series of incisive portraits, Padel turns to the struggles of human displacement - the Flight into Egypt, John James Audubon emigrating to America (feeding migrant birds en route), migrant workers in Mumbai and refugees labouring over a drastically changing planet - to show how the purpose of migration, for both humans and animals, is survival.
"A vertiginous compendium, a prodigy, a book of wonders: it is Montaigne’s and Darwin’s 21st-century child"
"A broad-ranging meditation on all things migratory...This is a book of raw interfaces and unnerving encounters. Magnificent poems... a triumph of imagistic ingenuity"
"(A) thoughtful and often quite magical mix of prose and poetry…What is just as fascinating as Padel’s central theme is the insight that she also gives us into poetry, or rather, into the creation of a poem."
"A glorious fabric, weaving lyricism and hard facts, poetic insight and scientific detail unwinding from the multitudinous threads of geographical migration. A beautiful, far-ranging book about physical journeys and all they might mean to humans and animals alike"
"In this sweeping an unconventional book about migration, Padels commendably calls for compassion and open borders. Her poems and essays are a lyrical tribute to the instincts and whims that catalyse movement, and the trials and beauties that come with motion... there are wonders of nature in this collection which will give pause to sensitive readers"
"In an original, wonderfully imaginative series of reflections, moving between essayistic insights, condensed metaphors of poetry, mysteries of microbiology and animal or human journeys, Ruth Padel takes migration as her subject and the whole earth as her province. A thrilling, poignant, richly illuminating investigation of the energies which create life and drive history"
"Who would have thought that a poet would write about one of the most fascinating aspects of behavioural biology and human striving? A remarkable, beautifully constructed book, interleaving science and history, clear prose and evocative poems"
"This book is an extraordinary mixture of poetry, prose, fact and fantasy."
"An engrossing meditation on the theme of migration…reads like a collaboration between Dorothy Wordsworth and Darwin."