Francis exposes her mental acuity by effortlessly and persuasively weaving together history, science, and literature—not to mention tales of emotional struggle relating to her love life—in an autobiographical work that triumphs as a meditation on darkness and hope. Dark Skies questions and historicizes what it means for people to spend time in the natural world, which often remains unknown and elusive to us in modern life, especially after the sun sets ... There’s something especially compelling about the ways Francis explores ... Her writing is clear and not at all pretentious, the way you’d want it to be in a narrative about the disheartening state of our shared environments. It’s easy to appreciate clarity and a straight-forward take on something so grim and immediate. Dark Skies is an urgent lesson in observation, one we need in a world that tramples carelessly over those who are too easily overlooked or disregarded ... In a world struggling daily with environmental catastrophe and the slog of news surrounding such life-affecting issues, there always remains one reassuring thought: the dark night is always followed by the dawn. At least for now.
Rich in literary references — to Tolkien, the Brontës, Edward Thomas, Tove Jansson — Dark Skies is also rippled through with memoir, with Francis exploring the roots of her love for nature in school trips and childhood holidays ... It’s a warmly personal narrative, perhaps overly so when it comes to Dave, her regular companion on hikes and camping trips. Their relationship waxes and wanes over the course of the book, but his presence makes you wonder whether the publisher demanded an emotional undertow to Francis’s sensitive nature writing. I’m afraid the sentimental climax, bringing the two strains together, made me reach for the sick-bucket.
... [a] lovely work ... Nature is a constant source of solace, with forests, hills, rivers, and moors filling these pages and the nocturnal theme leads to reflections on light pollution’s environmental effects. Francis’s beautiful prose and infectious joie de vivre will delight readers of this charming blend of memoir, travelogue, and nature writing.