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Publisher's Summary

Reissue of J. A. Baker's extraordinary classic of British nature writing, with an exclusive new afterword by Robert Macfarlane.

Despite the association of peregrines with the wild outer reaches of the British Isles, The Peregrine is set on the flat marshes of the Essex coast, where J. A. Baker spent a long winter looking at and writing about the visitors from the uplands - peregrines that spend the winter hunting the huge flocks of pigeons and waders that share the desolate landscape with them.

Such luminaries as Ted Hughes and Andrew Motion have cited this as one of the most important books in 20th century nature writing, and the best-selling nature writer Mark Cocker has provided an introduction on the importance of Baker and his work.

Among fragments of letters to Baker was one from a reader who praised a piece that Baker had written in RSPB Birds magazine in 1971. Apart from a paper on peregrines which Baker wrote for the Essex Bird Report, this article - entitled 'On the Essex Coast' - appears to be his only other published piece of writing, and, with the agreement of the RSPB, it has been included in this updated new edition of Baker's astounding work.

©1967 J. A. Baker (P)2017 HarperCollins Publishers

Critic Reviews

"Passionately fierce but also wonderfully tender." (Andrew Motion)
"...an inspiring example to future writers, and a gift to lovers of nature." ( The Times Literary Supplement)
"...a literary masterpiece, one of the 20th century's outstanding examples of nature writing." ( The Independent)
" The Peregrine should be known as one of the finest works on nature ever written." ( BBC Wildlife)
"...some of the most marvellous prose of the twentieth century." ( Literary Review)
"A tour de force...what can I do except praise writing which involves all the senses? This book goes altogether outside the bird-book into literature." ( The Sunday Times)
"A rapt and remarkable book...his phrases have a magnesium-flare intensity." ( The Observer)
"...what is certain is that The Peregrine is the most precise and poetic account of a bird - possibly of any non-human creature - ever written in English prose." ( The Daily Telegraph)
"J. A. Baker's poetic prose has a hard intensity and an exquisite lyric grace that takes it far beyond the stereotypical stuff of larks ascending and questing voles. Cruelly beautiful and brutally exact, it sees the countryside anew to give us nature in the wild and in the raw." ( The Scotsman)
"Including original diaries from which The Peregrine was written and its companion volume, The Hill of Summer, this is a beautiful compendium of lyrical nature writing at its absolute best.... For those with an interest in the Peregrine Falcon or classic natural history writing." ( The Guardian)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A classic ode to wildness

It's difficult for me to rate this beautiful book because I want to give it 6 stars overall even though for me the performance didn't work.

The author so dazzled me with the artfulness of his language and observation that I had to go out and buy a copy of the book to hold in my hands in order to reread many passages I'd just finished.

The performer here has the lively British accent that would seem appropriate for the British countryside however his reading has a stylized sameness of rhythm that I found difficult. The author is so understatedly reverent and so present with nature and with words that the book seems to demand an authentic voice to read it to us. Alas. (My being an American woman may well have made this more distracting to me so I'd recommend you listen to an excerpt to check it out for yourself.)

There really is no story here and it doesn't matter. Given the rare opportunity for developing intimacy with wild beasts (and the heart of the author) I found this book to be a thriller that turned pages all by themselves.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Jean
  • Santa Cruz, CA, United States
  • 05-15-17

Engaging

I am aware of the Peregrine Falcon as the University of California Santa Cruz has a big Peregrine project to save the bird. The use of DDT had brought a number of local birds almost to extinction such as the Peregrine Falcone, the California Condor and the Brown Pelican. The project has been successful and there are a number of breeding pairs making nests in Bay Area buildings. Some of these building have installed webcam so the public can watch the hatching of the eggs and then watch the baby birds.

The author undertook a year-long study of the Peregrine. He followed birds around East Anglia (England). He explored their life style and the habitat of the bird. In many ways, the book is like his diary of his observations of the Peregrine. Baker’s prose had many wonderful passages that sounded more like poetry. My only complaint about the book is that at times Baker was repetitive. The book was originally published in 1967. This is the 50th anniversary edition of the book.

The book is about seven and half hours long. Dugald Bruce-Lockhart did a good job narrating the book. Lockhart is a classic trained actor and award winning audiobook narrator. He is from the United Kingdom.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Sam
  • Azle, Texas
  • 08-07-18

Beautiful Prose. A must read for writers.

What a beautiful little book. I listened on my drive to work and was often hitting the rewind button to listen to a passage again. In fact I enjoyed it so much that I purchased the kindle version as well so that I can reread and study Mr. Baker's writing style. He has a way of transporting you there, into the field with him. You want to grab a coat, binoculars, journal, and pencil and start studying your own local wildlife. This will be a definite multiple listen for me and has made it onto the short list of audio books that I fall asleep to at night, joining the hallowed ground of Kitchen Confidential. Thank you Mr. Baker for a wonderful work of art and may you rest in peace from the illness that plagued you in life. The reading by Dugald Bruce-Lockhart was spot on and I'm sure would have made the author proud.

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  • Joey
  • 06-25-17

Wrong narrator, but right book.

Wrong choice of narrator, in my opinion; he sounds to jovial for a book which, in the end, is quite dark – both in its obsessive portrayal of the killing which belies natural beauty, and the exiled status of Man. For all that, it's an astonishing and galvanising book; thanks to Robert MacFarlane in Landmarks for unfolding its dark magic.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Serena
  • 02-18-18

Great book - terrible choice in voice actor

The voice actor talks far too fast making it hard to follow the fantastic writing. I honestly have to read the book at a constant 80% speed. He's also far too cheery as a voice actor for this book. I don't know why he got this piece. He would be great for other books, maybe, but not this.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Meatball
  • 09-20-18

Wonderful writing, reader's intonation a problem

I managed to get about a quarter of the way into the book, which is a wonderful piece of lyrical writing, evocative and insightful. The reader is excellent in many ways but has a bi-tonal intonation that once I heard, I could not ignore. Most sentences start, rise and then fall noticeably and the effect was too intrusive for me to continue.

If this does not bother you (I may be a freak?) then this is a wonderful book.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 08-26-18

A True Masterpiece

The Peregrine and its author are shrouded in equal parts legend and mystery. Baker hides himself inside a cloak of passion that is only drawn aside to show the depth and instinctive feeling and understanding he has for his subject matter.
To immerse oneself in this book is not only to take a step back in time but to cross to another dimension where a mirror is held up to the paucity of understanding we have of the world around us as the ones and zeroes flash before us.
Read, listen, swim in this book and find true bliss.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 07-09-18

New love for nature

I'm falling deeper ace deeper in love with nature and its thanks to this journey of discovering new books about nature, such as this one, that are changing my view of the world.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Jo
  • 02-02-18

Avoid the introduction and forewords.

Fabulous book, evocative language, but spoiled for me by the unhelpful introduction and foreword which tainted my listening. I will not detail why here, so as to avoid a repetition of the affect for anyone reading this!

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  • practicalshopper
  • 01-07-18

interesting

I loved listening to this book. Even though it described gruesome details of the deaths of birds, the way it was written filled me with joy and left me with a longing to return to simpler times.

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  • ghostdog79
  • 01-05-18

Classic book, poor narration

What did you like most about The Peregrine: 50th Anniversary Edition: Afterword by Robert Macfarlane?

An intense, obsessive and lonely masterpiece of nature writing. I liked experiencing the savage fury and soaring freedom of the birds through Baker's uniquely lyrical prose, and felt the hopeless anger and shame of the author at what our species had done to the peregrines and their environment.

What other book might you compare The Peregrine: 50th Anniversary Edition: Afterword by Robert Macfarlane to, and why?

There is no other book like it. Some similar themes in Silent Spring by Rachel Carson.

Did the narration match the pace of the story?

No. It was never going to be easy to do this justice so fair play to the narrator for trying. I just felt it lacked passion and at times felt he could have been reading the shipping forecast from the tone of the delivery. There were favourite passages I was waiting eagerly to hear read aloud without really knowing what to expect with the delivery, but could not help feeling disappointed.