Sean Flynn chronicles his first year as a peacock owner, from struggling to build a pen to assisting the local bird doctor in surgery to triumphantly watching a peahen lay her first egg. He also examines the global history of peacocks, from their appearance in the Garden of Eden to their befuddling Charles Darwin to their bewitching the likes of Flannery O'Connor and Martha Stewart.
There’s nothing like senseless violence to prompt a search for meaning, as promised in the subtitle. Through most of the book, though, it doesn’t feel as if Flynn is up to anything so profound ... The writing is often witty, sometimes glorious, and his tales wry and charming. (Though at one point, it seems that Flynn just can’t stop reporting on human barbarity, devoting a chapter to the unsolved torture and murder of peacocks in a suburb of Los Angeles) ... But more is going on here. Something magical happens to this hard-bitten reporter as he gets to know his peacocks ... a fine starting point to finding meaning in a world both cruel and beautiful.
Flynn recognizes the privilege inherent in keeping peacocks; throughout the ages, the birds were esteemed for their beauty, and owning peacocks was a way to display wealth and power. The author also notes the downsides of living alongside peacocks, who are quite noisy ... Blending memoir and natural history, this candid journey into the world of an unusual bird will spark the interest of fans of popular science.
Have you ever thought, What my household needs is a few peacocks? Me neither. But that didn’t stop me from enjoying Sean Flynn’s Why Peacocks? An Unlikely Search for Meaning in the World’s Most Magnificent Bird, which details what happened after his family took on some pet peacocks ... [Flynn] he approaches his subject with a science writer’s eye for detail ... The narrative of Why Peacocks? alternates between this family’s story and more journalistic accounts, as Flynn leads us through a natural and cultural history of peacocks, including the evolution of male peacocks’ shimmering feather trains and the roles peacocks have played in religious traditions, making entertaining digressions along the way ... Although this book is a quick read, it’s well researched with an extensive bibliography. Sweet and often funny, Why Peacocks? is an engaging mix of memoir, history and journalism.