Few writers have attempted to explore the natural history of a particular animal by adopting the animals own sensibility. But Verlyn Klinkenborgwith his deeply empathetic relation to the world around himhas done just that, and done it brilliantly, in Timothy.
This is the story of a tortoise whose real life was observed by the eighteenth-century English curate Gilbert White, author of The Natural History of Selborne. For thirteen years, Timothy lived in Whites gardenmaking an occasional appearance in his journals. Now Klinkenborg gives the tortoise an unforgettable voice and powers of observation as keen as those of any bipedal naturalist. The happy result: Timothy regales us with an account of a gracefully paced (no unseemly hurry!) eight-day adventure outside the gate (How do I escape from that nimble-tongued, fleet-footed race? . . . Walk through the holes in their attention) and entertains us with shrewd observations about the curious habits and habitations of humanity. To humans, Timothy says with doleful understanding, in and out are matters of life and death. Not to me. Warm earth waits just beneath me. . . . The humans own heat keeps them from sensing it.
Wry and wise, unexpectedly moving, and enchanting at everycarefulturn, Timothy will surprise and delight readers of all ages.
I was gone for more than a week before they found me. A rustling in the bean-field, heavy steps nearby. A shout--the boy's voice--more shouts. Thomas catches me up in his hands with sickening haste. I weigh six pounds thirteen ounces. He lifts me as though I weigh nothing at all.
Ground breaks away. May wind shivers in my ears. My legs churn the sky on their own. I look down on bean-tops. Down on the blunt ends of sheep-bitten grasses. Over one field, into the next, into the hop-garden beyond. Past thatch and tiles, past maypole, past gilded cock on the church tower. All in my eye, all at once. So far to see.
Goody Hammond and Daniel Wheeler's boy totter forward beside Thomas. Great warm two-legged beasts. Stilt-gaited like the rest of their kind. The boy prances backward, eyeing me closely. Bland watery orbs, fringed with pale hair. Cavernous mouth. Halloos as though I were the king's stag being drawn through the village in a deer-cart.
My week gone in two-score ...
This is a small volume that cannot be hurried, and at the moment my life is too frenetic to enjoy something that needs to be read at tortoise-speed. However, I will certainly be keeping it on the shelf to look forward to in calmer days when I can appreciate Timothy's wisdom more fully.
(Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
Full Review (563 words).
The Natural History & Antiquities of Selborne was first published in 1789 and has gone through many editions since, remaining a favorite amongst nature lovers. As for Timothy himself, he lived with White from 1780 until White died in 1793. Timothy died sometime the following year but his shell has been preserved and can be found somewhere in the Natural History Museum in London (a gloriously cavernous Victorian building which is a "must see" for anyone visiting London,...
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