This is Charlie Elder’s second book. Following on from his earlier ‘While Flocks Last’ (which I own and now plan to read again) where he went around the UK to find forty birds on the UK red list which means they are in serious decline, the author now gads around the UK looking for 25 rare or hard to find creatures. As well as birds he’s included insects, mammals, amphibians and marine life.
Charlie Elder is undoubtedly very excited by nature and keen to bring to our attention the plight of many of our scarcer creatures; you have to be over a certain level of enthusiasm to spend time sleeping in your car, endure various boat trips to islands to find black rats and to get up at the crack of dawn to go scuba diving in the sea off the south coast of Britain.
The scarce creatures chosen to feature in the book, whilst they do deserve to have that descriptor, are, as the author points out, entirely random. And, this is the problem for me. The narrative just doesn’t seem to flow in the same way that other, similar books such as Patrick Barkham’s excellent Butterfly Isles or the authors aforementioned While Flocks Last. His enthusiasm just didn’t come out of the page and grab me, it didn’t make me want to find out if he spotted all of the 25 beasties on his list. Whilst there were some interesting bits of information about the animals in question, it almost felt like a book about the hardships the author endured to go and see them – which of course he decided were all worth it in the end.
Maybe it is just that there are other and better nature books, or maybe the whole seeing a number of things in a year is a bit jaded, or perhaps it is just the sheer amount of travelling that the author did just to see these creatures that didn’t work for me. (Good job all that nature was ripped up so he had some nice roads to travel about the country on to see these rare and threatened species.)
If I was to rate the book, I would sit on the fence and give it three stars out of five – not bad, but it did seem as though the author was trying to think of subject matter for another book rather than already having a list of creatures he wanted to see before it was too late.