Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Book #36 Crow Country by Mark Cocker

Crow Country

I got this book well over a year ago when I ordered everything on a recommended list after a Readers Day (Yeah, I do stuff like that!) As far as I recall it was recommended by the poet David Constantine but it could have been his wife Helen, or someone else entirely. I found it residing sideways on a shelf this morning and thought I'd give it its turn - I have too many books, far too many, bought and unread.

I have to say that this is the first book since The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen to truly challenge the 'Finish what you started' aspect of the Roz Reading Challenge as a whole. I truly did not know if I could finish it, even when I only had 40 pages left. I hated reading this and couldn't wait to finish it, it was painful, it all began to blur into just words. I did however, finish it.

Mark Cocker is an ornithologist who specialises in crows. He's a crow man, they're his favourite birds, and the book is about his observations of them in the Yare Valley, Norfolk, other parts of Britain and their general history.

I want to be 100% fair to it and say: If you are an ornithologist, a twitcher, someone who enjoys Springwatch or nature programs in general, you will probably like this book. Not only does Cocker's genuine love for his subject matter shine through, extracts of it have a real poetic quality to them and he occasionally references poems featuring crows. In Chapter 17, Cocker talks about bird-watchers being defined as 'sad' in contemporary culture, but just because I don't identify, doesn't mean I think he's sad, my interest in poetry for example, or indeed in writing reviews on the Internet that I'm not sure anyone is actually reading might equally be classed as sad. I merely do not share his passion.

My grandfather had a bunch of crows that sat on his roof and basically waited for the scraps that came with punctual regularity. He used to clang a metal pan as a signal that the food was out, they were pretty obese crows, I suppose in the end. We did wonder if they mourned him when he died. I guess he was a crow man. My interest in crows is probably nil. I found the book torturous, arduous and deathly dull, it is less than 200 pages long and I had a genuine struggle to read it. I have read very little non fiction ever prior to this year and this book reminded me exactly why.

As Natural History books go, I can sort of tell that for those interested in the matter this would be a special book, and so my dislike for it is not based on the fact that it's a "bad book" it's probably an excellent book just not my cup of tea. In fairness to it I am not this books audience, and it's probably heading to the nearest charity shop. If my grandfather were still living though, I think he might have liked it.

Sad to say 3/10 for me, but for those who like birds it's probably a 7/8

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