Owls have existed for over sixty million years, and in the relatively short time we have shared the planet with these majestic birds they have ignited the human imagination. But even as owls continue to captivate our collective consciousness, celebrated British nature writer Miriam Darlington finds herself struck by all she doesn't know about the true nature of these enigmatic creatures.
Ms. Darlington is most persuasive when she records her interactions with owls on a visceral, intimate level ... Ms. Darlington’s language is unfailingly precise and lovingly poetic when she writes about the beauty of her owls ... Ms. Darlington delivers nature writing of the first order.
Darlington’s survey of the state of owls today is intimately staged, an account of her quest to see in situ the six species that live in her native England ... Her approach is not that of biologist, ecologist or scholar. Instead, her binoculars are those of a writer and a mother, both roles equally consequential to the resulting mix of popular science, travelogue and memoir ... Draws on literature, myth and folklore as well as the author’s experience as the fierce protector of a son suffering a baffling illness ... It is mainly the extra-scientific glitter that rescues the modern-day reader from despair, especially when applied with Darlington’s reserve. These sparing flights of poetic prose raise a shiver ... That is why Darlington’s occasional banalities land with a thud ... But more than merely trite is the frequently repeated suggestion that animals, to be worthy of consideration — more to the point, a book deal — must perform an educational service ... Despite that, The Wise Hours proves we don’t need life lessons to appreciate the world’s marvels.
The scientific information comes through Darlington’s always lovely prose, meaning that instead of info dumps, we get pleasing passages intertwined with the narrative. Each chapter maintains its focus, but they develop a nice sequence of increasing strigiform knowledge as the reader feels more and more at home with these remarkable birds ... The author herself remains an charming guide, a necessary factor given how much of herself remains near the forefront of the book. At times her joy in owls comes through infectiously; readers will be almost as excited as she is when she makes a few of her discoveries. Other times we stumble along with her ... The Wise Hours makes for an excellent read from a quirky explorer.