RaveThe New York Review of BooksNo longer confined to a single grief or creature, Macdonald’s fascination with the natural world ranges from the habits of cuckoos and glowworms to the biodiversity of trees. A lament for the loss of natural habitats (\'the world’s sixth great extinction\') is inevitable here, but overall Vesper Flights is both more celebratory and more subtly conflicted than her earlier book ... Throughout Vesper Flights, Macdonald pursues her own complicated relationship with nature in language and imagery so opulent that these essays may best be read at intervals ... Many of these essays, when not surveying birds, deal with everyday phenomena: mushrooms, nestboxes, berries. But others describe extreme conditions that are well suited to Macdonald’s graphic and impassioned writing ... For the adult woman, the child’s need for consolation in animals, and the recognition that there is no true reciprocity between her and these creatures, generates a creative friction that sets Macdonald apart among nature writers.
RaveNew York Review of BooksRobert Macfarlane’s remarkable Underland: A Deep Time Journey celebrates an ambivalent love affair with the subterranean ... Grounded in lightly worn scientific knowledge, it is imbued with the intensity of personal experience ... the lyrical intensity of [Macfarlane\'s] writing places him in a long British tradition ... Yet Macfarlane falls as easily into the American lineage of Thoreau and John Muir ... He has absorbed those influences into a rich vernacular of his own. In passages of euphoria or stress (there are many), his sentences break into verbless fragments, like splashes of color. Only rarely is the intensity of his description such that the words call attention chiefly to themselves ... Macfarlane is gifted with qualities often mutually exclusive: the physical hardiness of travel, the sensitivity to evoke it, and a talent for scientific elucidation. Literary and classical learning cohabit with the interpretation of nuclear fission and trace fossils. At times his writing ascends to a kind of forensic poetry. Although he chronicles to devastating effect the onslaught of our species on the planet, Underland goes far beyond the normal lament of a sensitive ecologist. The visionary perspectives that he evokes, earned from his own hard journeys, create a fusion of exhilaration, foreboding, and enchantment. Underland may be his masterpiece.
PositiveThe New York Times Sunday Book ReviewDespite some reiteration, her book is readable, thoughtful and widely researched, and informed by German sources richer than the English canon.