I like to review everything I read, but sometimes my thoughts for a particular book don’t necessitate a full blog post. When that’s the case, I’ll combine a couple of mini reviews as they accumulate, and share them together retrospectively. Here are a couple such reviews, which both happen to be for non-fiction.
The Secret Life of the Owl by John Lewis-Stempel
Published by Doubleday, 2017
My rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Well researched fact and passionate prose come together to form a compact and enjoyable, if not revolutionary look at the owl species native to Britain, and man’s complicated relationship with them. John Lewis-Stempel can write beautifully, and he manages to convey genuine awe and respect for his subject matter, whilst remaining informative and unbiased.
That said, a section of the book looks at man’s historic vilification of owls, suggesting that their association with evil, darkness, death, and suffering is unjust. However, he then ends the book by describing a particular owl as ‘The Lord of the Night’; detailing the joy it gets from the paralysing screams of a dying rabbit ringing out in the cold dead of night. Whilst it’s one of the most evocative sequences in the book, it felt like an odd and somewhat contradictory tone to end on, given the previous attempts to redefine their reputation.
I can’t say I learned much from it, but it was an interesting overview nonetheless. I’d say it’s worth a read for those fascinated by owls, and for those who like their nature non-fiction presented in lovely prose, befitting of the sense of wonder that the creatures themselves evoke.
You can pick up a copy of The Secret Life of the Owl by clicking here.
Mary, Who Wrote Frankenstein by Linda Bailey, illustrated by Júlia Sardà
Published by Tundra Books, 2018
My rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
A very condensed, introductory biography of Mary Shelley, with a particular focus on how she came to write her magnum opus, Frankenstein. I’m certainly no expert, but as someone with a keen interest in Shelley, this didn’t teach me anything new. That said, I picked it up mostly for Sardà’s gorgeous illustrations, which are suitably atmospheric and enchanting.
The beauty of the artwork, combined with Bailey’s simple prose, and the book’s overall brevity, make this an enjoyable glimpse of a fascinating literary figure that is accessible for practically any age. So, whether you’re a seasoned Shelley fan looking to expand your collection, or you’re keen to encourage a younger reader to dip their toe into the world of gothic horror, you could do far worse than this book.
You can pick up a copy of Mary, Who Wrote Frankenstein by clicking here.
Have you read either of these books? I’d love to hear your thoughts on them if you have.