Book Reviews

The Eternal Season: Ghosts of Summers Past, Present and Future by Stephen Rutt

What Da Cover Says: Summer is traditionally a time of plenty, of warmth, of breeding; a time to celebrate the abundance of nature teeming in our hedgerows, cities, marshlands and woodlands. But in the twenty-first century, ‘summer’ is becoming harder to define. The changing climate is bleeding our traditional distinctions into one another. Last February held days as warm as August. Or was it the other way around?

Against the anxious backdrop of the global pandemic, Stephen Rutt seeks comfort and reassurance from nature in full bloom. But within his evocative exploration of the landscapes and wildlife that characterise the British summer, he also notes the disturbance to the traditional rhythms of the natural world: the wrong birds singing at the wrong time, the disruption to habitats and breeding, the myriad ways climate change is causing a derangement of the seasons.

What I Says: Set against the backdrop of the COVID Pandemic, this book is how one birder handles the lockdown and how he coped without his usual access to nature. Being put into this situation he starts to notice nature in a different way, species that turn up early or not at all, foreign species that usually live in warm climates and the impact the changing seasons are having on all of nature, from the wee tiny bugs to the majestic birds up in the sky.

I’ve read Rutt’s two previous books and his love for birds really shone through, here he takes things once step further and shares with us his love of all nature…even if it is a thing from nightmares (Yes, there is such a thing as a Wasp Spider) Just like with his previous books Rutt takes a subject that in the wrong hands could become dry and dull, by sharing his love for these animals and plants adds a real poetic edge to his words. I read his blog too and don’t think I’ll ever get bored with his writing.

In this book Rutt ends up stuck in Bedfordshire during the first lockdown and spends his time exploring the area fully, something he probably wouldn’t have been able to do without the presence of the lockdown. The next part of the book he is back home and trying to fit back in with his surroundings, realising what he has missed and seeing new things for the first time. Amongst all these experiences is the concern of climate change, researching the species that are losing out, those that are making the most of the situation and those invading species and the damage they do, not least the distraction of their presence makes us not notice those that have vanished.

My favourite part of this book is when Rutt points out that during the lockdown people were saying that nature was starting to heal, Rutt thinks that was not entirely true, it was just that nature has been given a chance to shout loud enough for us to hear. Brilliant thought. This book really makes you realise you need to get out there and witness these creatures and events in nature before it’s too late…alas I’m just no good at spotting these things, it’s just too slow a process for me to remember the identity of what I have seen, I need to find some kind of course I can go on to help me learn, I wish this was the sort of thing I was taught at school, would have been so much more fun than drama. This is a powerful book that will inspire you to get out there and look in hedgerows and wild plants to see what you can find, before finishing this review I popped out with the dog to see what I could find, I saw lots of weird little bugs and the only one that stayed still long enough for me to photograph was these:

Dock Bug

Thanks to Elliot & Thompson for the review copy of this book, you can avoid A****n by getting a copy from Waterstones.

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