...[a] captivating debut, congenially translated by Agnes Broomé ... Tinged with melancholy ... The Book of Eels is, in the end, not really about eels but about life itself, and that makes it different from other recent books on the subject. Mr. Svensson mixes chapters about the eel’s natural history—or, rather, the history of clumsy human attempts to understand it—with finely observed autobiographical vignettes devoted to his own childhood memories of eel-fishing with his father. From these memories, saturated with intense, sensory detail, Mr. Svensson’s father emerges as a creature as magical and determined as any eel from the Sargasso Sea ...In a way, Mr. Svensson’s book is another version of his father’s cabin, full of stories and of a size just right, the size only memory and love can make: a place where secrets will always remain secrets and grief dissolves into the shimmering waters of the lake outside, the author’s own Sargasso Sea, forever stocked with shiny eels, all within easy reach—yet not.
In addition to an intriguing natural history, Swedish journalist Svensson includes a highly personal account of his relationship with his father ... Throughout, Svensson, whose beat is not biology but art and culture, fills his account with people ... The apparent return to life of a dead eel leads Svensson to a consideration of faith and the inherent message of miracles. He warns that if we are to save this fascinating creature from extinction, we must continue to study it. His book is a highly readable place to begin learning ... Unsentimental nature writing that sheds as much light on humans as on eels.
Svensson, a Swedish journalist, melds the personal and scientific in this captivating look at the European eel ... Svensson alternates these scientific and historical passages with moving reminiscences of being taught to fish for eels by his father in a stream near their home, and with reflections on eels as a human food source and on current efforts to conserve them. Nature-loving readers will be enthralled by Svensson’s fascinating zoological odyssey.