When Michael Malay came to England at twenty-one, he was enchanted by the green and pleasant land he had read so much about. Befriending naturalists and birders, he began to learn the names of the species and the phenomena that shaped this new life of his: downs; combes; brambles; oystercatcher; skylark – it was the beginning of a love affair.
But with each new discovery came an awareness of just how much was missing. This island that looked, from the heart of the Mendip Hills, like an oasis of interconnected ecosystems, was the site of more losses than we can count.
Told through the stories of four ‘uncharismatic’ creatures – eels, moths, freshwater pearl mussels, crickets – and Michael’s forays into their dwindling worlds, his is an inventive and curious account of modern extinction. As he gets to know the places these animals call home, and the communities who defend or rely upon them, Michael unravels the ways in which our landscapes and their inhabitants are falling prey to a blend of political apathy and the ravages of capitalism.
But he is clear: this is not an elegy. Michael captures how it feels to find pockets of magic and meaning on our doorsteps, and how to sustain our hope for the future.