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natural history, philosophy, memoir, or travelogue? Take your pickAug. 14 2009
- Published on Amazon.com
This book will entertain those who enjoy travel memoirs, natural history-lite, and don't mind long forays into description and philosophy.
This nonfiction book was inspired by Paul Gallico's, "The Snow Goose" (1940). The author begins with a recollection of this story and then briefly describes his protracted illness at the age of 25 with an illness. After returning to his family home to recover Fiennes decides to take a journey to trace the snow goose's spring migration. Starting in Austin, Texas, and tracing the flight of birds in rental cars, greyhound busses, and Canadian trains he arrives at Baffin Island where the birds have their summer mating and foraging grounds.
Describing the migratory pattern of snow geese could be a straightforward and dry narrative, but intertwined with the geese's journey is Fiennes's personal homeward journey propelled by the people he meets along the way and seemingly the philosophical musings sprinkled throughout the book. An example of the tangential flights of fancy which the author takes is that of homesickness. First drawing on those who first identified and defined homesickness as a malady, and then expanding with literary illustrations such as "The Odyssey," Fiennes describes his feeling of homesickness. Unfortunately the connection between homesickness and seasonal bird migration is not made, nor can it be really.
The description of people and places in this book are detailed. Sometimes too much so. Since the people described are frequently peripheral to the story, fellow passengers on the bus or train, the story sometimes loses focus. The natural scenes in contrast are more apt and so the detail is not begrudged: "There were hills and swales in all directions, drawing away on the curve of the sphere, and clouds massing in the south, above the sea" (p. 240). The combination of natural description, and the description of all people encountered joined with the personal rumination of the author makes for an odd amalgamation of literary genres.