BookBrowse Reviews Timothy by Verlyn Klinkenborg

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Timothy

Notes of an Abject Reptile

by Verlyn Klinkenborg

Timothy by Verlyn Klinkenborg
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Feb 2006, 192 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2007, 192 pages

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A dazzling riff on human beings and their weird ways. Nature

From the book jacket: Few writers have attempted to explore the natural history of a particular animal by adopting the animal’s own sensibility. But Verlyn Klinkenborg—with his deeply empathetic relation to the world around him—has 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 White’s garden—making 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 every—careful—turn, Timothy will surprise and delight readers of all ages.

Comment: The critics positively rave about this little book (see below for a sampling of their comments).  Personally, I found Timothy to be charming but not riveting -  despite the fact that Selborne is just a couple of miles away from where I grew up in Hampshire, England, and therefore the setting was familiar to me.  Having said that I'm pretty sure that this has more to do with my current state of mind than any fault of the book.  It's 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 hope to be able to appreciate Timothy's wisdom more fully.  As always, don't take my word for it, browse an excerpt for yourself at BookBrowse.

"Told in terse sentences that can read like stanzas of poetry. . .this brief but powerful book is unforgettable." - Chicago Sun-Times.

"…what [this] engaging reptile has to say will stay with readers long after they close the pages of this astonishing book." - The Washington Times.

This review was originally published in March 2006, and has been updated for the January 2007 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.



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