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Reviews of Between Light and Storm by Esther Woolfson

Between Light and Storm by Esther Woolfson

Between Light and Storm

How We Live with Other Species

by Esther Woolfson
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  • First Published:
  • Dec 6, 2022
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About This Book

Book Summary

A landmark examination of the fraught relationship between humans and animals, taking the reader from Genesis to climate change.

Beginning with the very origins of life on Earth, Woolfson considers prehistoric human-animal interaction and traces the millennia-long evolution of conceptions of the soul and conscience in relation to the animal kingdom, and the consequences of our belief in human superiority. She explores our representation of animals in art, our consumption of them for food, our experiments on them for science, and our willingness to slaughter them for sport and fashion, as well as examining concepts of love and ownership.

Drawing on philosophy and theology, art and history, as well as her own experience of living with animals and coming to know, love, and respect them as individuals, Woolfson examines some of the most complex ethical issues surrounding our treatment of animals and argues passionately and persuasively for a more humble, more humane, relationship with the creatures who share our world.

Beginnings

A late October afternoon. It's quiet. The blue light of dusk beyond the windows melts into early darkness. I'm in the company of others but I'm the only human being here. I'm walking from room to room, tidying, putting things in order, preparing for the evening when I notice a smirr of shadow passing over the surface of the kitchen floor. It's faint, just an impression before a glance, a small wisp of something, of blown feather, a dust­ball gusted in a draught. In these old houses, floors have weather of their own: breezes, cyclones, polar easterlies. I follow it closely until I see that it's walking, minutely but steadily across the desert expanse of floor, a spider so tiny that she freezes me where I stand, hyper­aware suddenly of my feet, of my own power, my murderous boots. This is a fellow inhabitant of my house, brought in by the cold, the incessant rain. In autumn, they all begin to look for shelter and for food: the house mice, the field mice who will ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The book is structured not as a systematic argument for Woolfson's view or a treatise on animal rights and welfare. Rather, Between Light and Storm is a cultural history of ideas. Interspersing personal anecdotes and reminiscences with discussions of science, literature, art, philosophy and religion, Woolfson surveys the belief systems that have shaped Western attitudes about other species, examining why some strands of thought have prevailed over others and what the repercussions of this cultural inheritance have been for animals and the environment...continued

Full Review (927 words)

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(Reviewed by Elisabeth Herschbach).

Media Reviews

Science
Woolfson writes with arresting grace and vibrant immediacy. The book is a necessary and beautiful plea for us humans to do better by our fellow creatures.

Foreword Reviews
Asserting that Earth's survival is in jeopardy, Between Light and Storm is passionate and powerful in arguing that people's attitudes and behaviors toward the Earth need to change in significant ways.

The Sunday Times (UK)
Nature writing at its best.

The Spectator (UK)
This book is so entertaining and intelligent.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
A beautifully written reflection on the enduring conceit of human exceptionalism and the resultant harm caused to animals...Learned, compassionate, and disconcerting, this is a major contribution to the literature on animal welfare.

Library Journal (starred review)
This work has the capacity to forever change the thinking about humans' relationship to animals and to lead to constructive ways of dealing with issues for the betterment of both. It belongs on the shelves of all academic and large public libraries.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Woolfson examines humanity's relationship with animals in this bracing investigation...a fascinating look at how and why humans 'consider ourselves superior' to other beings who live on the planet. With gorgeous writing and well-considered insight, this is a must for nature-minded readers.

Booklist
This expansive book traces humanity's relationship with other species through scientific studies, philosophical, literary, religious, and historical writings, and personal anecdotes.

Author Blurb Frans de Waal, New York Times bestselling author of Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?
We live in a time in which our disrespect for nature is coming back to bite us. Timely and wide-ranging, Esther Woolfson's book offers sensitive reflections on how we relate to the animals around us as well as the animal within.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book



Speciesism

Black-and-white illustration of the philosopher Pythagoras, standing outside with a book under one arm and the other arm extended In Between Light and Storm, Esther Woolfson critiques the idea that humans have a unique moral status that grants us the right to exploit animals for our own purposes without regard to their interests and welfare. This belief system, founded on the notion of human exceptionalism, is often referred to as "speciesism," a term coined by English philosopher and psychologist Richard Ryder in an influential 1970 leaflet arguing against the use of animals in research experiments and popularized and expanded upon by Australian philosopher Peter Singer in his 1975 book Animal Liberation.

"Since Darwin, scientists have agreed that there is no 'magical' essential difference between human and other animals, biologically speaking," Ryder wrote, ...

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Read-Alikes

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