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Ring of Bright Water (Ring of Bright Water #1)

4.12  ·  Rating Details ·  1,997 Ratings  ·  100 Reviews
Hailed a masterpiece when it was first published, the story of Gavin Maxwell's life with otters on the remote west coast of Scotland remains one of the most lyrical, moving descriptions of a man's relationship with the natural world. ""One of the outstanding wildlife books of all time.""-New York Herald Tribune First published 1960 by Longmans, Green & Co.
Paperback, 240 pages
Published October 6th 1987 by Penguin Books (first published 1960)
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Best Books About Animals
100th out of 1,038 books — 1,388 voters
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Best Nature Books
33rd out of 474 books — 399 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Nikki
Jul 12, 2015 Nikki rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I wanted to read this after having a go at Miriam Darlington’s Otter Country, which in many ways revolved around this book and the landscape described by Gavin Maxwell. He got much closer to the animals than Darlington, so perhaps it’s not surprising that his account is more interesting and vital. Otters were, not quite pets, but definitely companions for him, in a way that Darlington had no opportunity to understand.

Maxwell takes such a delight in the landscape and the antics of the creatures w
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Tim Davis
Nov 22, 2011 Tim Davis rated it it was amazing
Forever after you read A Ring of Bright Water, the beauty, wonder, and humor of this book will gently surface with a ring of bright ripples in the waters of you mind. I am never able to remember this book without simultaneously wanting to laugh and to cry-and always with a sense of awed wonder. This is the true story of Gavin's befriending of otters (or perhaps we should say of the otters' decision to befriend Gavin.) In one scene, on the first night Gavin has one of the otters in his home, the ...more
Krenner1
Dec 21, 2011 Krenner1 rated it it was amazing
Although this was written in the 60s, I just found it after reading a Wall Street Journal list of the best nature writing. This is a lovely read about a writer who lives in an isolated Scottish home in summer. This is not a book of fast plot or twists, but it is equisite description of the home and life there, and of how life changes when the writer acquires a pet otter. With sophisticated writing and vocabulary, even the fawning over this beloved otter avoids sentimentality or cuteness, and sus ...more
Graham
Dec 06, 2015 Graham rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I LOVED this book. Really loved it. So much so that I acquired the sequel even before I'd finished reading it. I was previously familiar with the material from having seen the Bill Travers/Virginia McKenna film of the same name, although I was pleased to find this was a much darker, more realistic, less Disney-fied version of the story.

In essence, Gavin Maxwell became a hermit, moving to the wilds of the western Scottish Highlands and acquiring a couple of otters to keep as pets. It's as simple
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Cameron
Jan 24, 2009 Cameron rated it really liked it
I osmosed the movie based on Ring of Bright Water as an animal-obsessed kid, and read the book not long after. While I imagine that some British neomarxist critics might furrow their brows at Maxwell's use of a pastoral escape device that drives the plot, I'm not coldhearted (or disentangled from ideology) enough to dismiss Maxwell's love of both the rustic Scottish seascape, and of otterkind.

Devastatingly sad at times, but sleek and beautiful, this is an animal story classic that has mostly go
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Steph (loves water)
I read this as a young girl and was struck by the beauty of writing and the story itself. I have read many books but not many have stayed with me the way this one has.
Amanda Wolpink
Apr 01, 2015 Amanda Wolpink rated it it was amazing
Ring of Bright Water represents, for me, narrative of one man's journey to re-join the likes of animal kind. As humans, we often separate ourselves out from animal taxonomy and think of ourselves as not truly in the same realm as animals. While I do agree to a point that free will and increased brain power makes us unique, I believe that Maxwell felt the need to find himself closer to the wild by removing himself from a populated area and surrounding himself with otters, birds, and such. He has ...more
Jessica
I watched the movie Ring of Bright Water several years ago and was absolutely taken by the story. I am what one may call an extreme animal lover and am drawn to such accounts. Due to my upbringing, I'm also fascinated by individuals who choose to live outside of the hub of society. In Ring of Bright Water, Maxwell recounts the early years at "Camusfearna", an isolated house in a remote part of Scotland and his subsequent adventures and misadventures raising three otters.

The way in which Maxwell
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Mary-Beth
This series of anecdotes concerning a man and his pet otters is disquieting to me. Reading it, I feel for the animals, I guess. Maxwell seems to really love animals, but his experimental way of handling them seems to bely that at times. Animals in his care are often seriously hurt or even die. I just can't get over feeling from everything he writes that an otter is simply a wild creature that does not make an appropriate pet. He is able to observe this about a pet monkey he procures, but only be ...more
Lainy
May 16, 2010 Lainy rated it really liked it
At the begining of the book I found it quite hard going. Very descriptive of scenery and for me it dragged. I was desperate to hear about the otter and he didn't appear until after page 40. However once he started getting into Mij and his antics and how he coped with living with an otter it was a fantastic read. For those non animals lovers I don't know how much if at all this book would appeal to you but I enjoyed it and will be reading no.2 soon.
Iain Cosgrove
Mar 19, 2013 Iain Cosgrove rated it it was amazing
I think this book has to be in my absolute top ten of all time. There is something timeless about this book, and the core tenets (love and loyalty) are universal and translate across the decades. The sense of place you get from Maxwells writing is amazing and the sentiment is palpable. A must have for anyone with a love of both good stories and animals.
Micha
Jan 29, 2012 Micha rated it it was amazing
Get out your Kleenex! This is a tear jerker. Always wanted an otter as a child, as an adult I know that's not the best idea for the animal, but still spend hours at the zoo or aquarium watching them whenever I have the chance. They made an outstanding movie based on this book.
Cameron
Aug 26, 2007 Cameron rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: nature
A wonderful book to read when you are neither here, nor there. Eye opening. Good to read before bed. Not much substance, except for the substance of place, which is vivid, and the relationship between an otter and a human.
Anna





I've already sobbed like a broken woman at the death of Johnny the spaniel. Goodness knows how I'll cope once we get to the otter death that wounded me when I saw the film as a child.
Tony
Dec 29, 2014 Tony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I almost abandoned this after the first couple of chapters. The tale of Maxwell moving to the remove Scottish highlands (by a slightly circuitous route involving buying a whole island for an ill-fated shark-catching business venture), with only his dog for company, was pleasant enough, but generally rather dull. After reading a few reviews that said things pick up after a few chapters, I decided to stick it out a while longer. For any future readers pondering the same question, I’d like to be mu ...more
Michael
Jan 08, 2012 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I like the writer's use of his landscape, the ecology of his surroundings and the suitable habitat for his otters. He establishes his place as well as theirs within an environment that is both sustainable and abundant, yet never lacks for knowledge or description of new wonders. Reminds me of Solomon's Ring, by Konrad Lorenz, in that it addresses animal behavior, also Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowat or possibly Gorillas in the Mist, by Jane Goodall. There is a certain lesson to be learned too, fr ...more
Malvina
Jun 29, 2013 Malvina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was one of two books that I couldn't finish when I studied it at high school, many years ago. In fact, I remember reading the study notes the night before the exam to find out what happened at the end of the book, but promptly falling asleep. Fortunately I was able to avoid any questions on the book and passed the exam. Returning to it now was still a mental challenge, but one I was determined to overcome. Of course it was a vastly different read now, one of pleasure and enjoyment. The firs ...more
Jessi
Mar 28, 2015 Jessi rated it it was ok
Though I loved the description of the island and the otters, I felt that the author only cared for the animals in a selfish way - removing them from their homes & ability to reproduce, their instincts & life cycles, thus limiting their ecosystems and their species.

He often, in fact, loves the animals to death - how many otters die so he can have a pet? What effect did he have on the basking shark population? Did he care? Still, my sensibilities are more modern; the book dates from the '
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Miranda
Oct 11, 2014 Miranda rated it really liked it
This book ruined me for life, I read it decades ago with my father and decades later I still want a pet otter.
John
Mar 19, 2015 John rated it really liked it
Another book where it goes somewhere completely different about halfway through. This book -- written in the late 1950s -- is brilliant. The author is a magnificent prose stylist, and his descriptions of the far, wild, western edge of Scotland are absolutely gorgeous. About halfway through, however, the book becomes entirely about his adoption of and subsequent trials with an otter he brought back from the persian gulf... an interesting, amusing, and even touching story, but very different from ...more
David R. Godine
"Gavin Maxwell was to otters what Joy Adamson was to lions, Dian Fossey to gorillas, Jane Goodall to chimpanzees and Grey Owl to beavers. Ring of Bright Water was one of the twentieth-century's most popular wildlife books (top of the U.S. bestseller lists for a year, over two million sold worldwide) and was habitually bracketed with Thoreau's Walden, Gilbert White's Natural History of Selborne and Henry Williamson's Tarka the Otter."
— Douglas Botting, Gavin Maxwell: A Life

"One of the outstandin
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Gobasso
Apr 03, 2011 Gobasso rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, nature
I enjoyed this book. It is the first in the "Ring of Bright Water" trilogy. After reading this book I intend to read the other two. Maxwell's writing is evocative and makes one see and feel the countryside of Western Scotland. His descriptions of his playful otters made me think I would want one as a pet. But this cautionary tale also fully shows the drawbacks of keeping a wild animal as a pet. This book was written fifty years ago and I found myself contrasting the authors encounters with natur ...more
Kris Holland
Dec 30, 2010 Kris Holland rated it really liked it
I thought this was a sweet book, and even though I'm against keeping any wild animal as a pet, I can appreciate the author's tales & stories of his time in Scotland & his love of his 'pets', be they otters, dogs, or geese. The stories of his otter Mij & his antics is the best part (and majority) of the book, & I have to think that most who enjoy reading about animals would also love this read.
I do have to note that I've seen where this is considered a children's book, but don't u
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Martyn
Jan 19, 2016 Martyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It took me a little while to get into it. I almost never give up on a book once I have started, but this one was almost the exception to the rule. It took me several days to just plod my way through the first twenty-five pages, and then got put to one side for a few months. But I decided to give it another go, and resumed where I left off, and perhaps because I was in the right frame of mind for it I suddenly began to enjoy it, and was able to read the remaining 180 pages in three days.

Initiall
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Joe Rodeck
Jun 03, 2015 Joe Rodeck rated it it was amazing
Aside from writing, Gavin Maxwell's hobbies were the amateur study of wild creatures of land, sea and air on a faraway coast of Northern Scotland; and beachcombing. This book is his "Walden Pond."

He follows his muse in his easier said than done plan to have an otter companion.

I wouldn't recommend this book for children, it's not Walt Disney. There's vocabulary you can't find in the dictionary and the language is formal English, making this a middle to challenging read.

Talented writing will ha
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Jack Gibson
May 02, 2013 Jack Gibson rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biographical
A beautiful read. Inspired by the great Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna film. Great narrative about living in very rural Scotland, and comparing this with urban life-for example, a 100 mile hard trip to buy a pair of jeans! Mij the otter and also interestingly about a Lemur which Gavin gained as a pet.
Maxwell was a very well educated man, and it was a very homely experience to read about this part of his life.
Eleanor
Feb 26, 2012 Eleanor rated it liked it
Lovely book. Maxwell is a bit full of himself and the story can be a bit slow at times, but this may be because he isn't really writing fiction, but a true account of his life with otters on the isle of Skye. His description of the island will ring true with anyone who has ever visited Skye themselves and know how beautiful it is.
Kate Croft
Mar 07, 2012 Kate Croft rated it it was amazing
Everyone should read this gorgeous ode to Hebridean nature and the communion of animal and man. Maxwell's soaring prose makes even the most mundane things (fish boxes, otter excrement) eloquent, and his love for creatures and places now lost will render any reader's heart.
Kosuke Kamiya
May 12, 2015 Kosuke Kamiya rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
1 Penguin level 3

2 5/19=60min 5/11=60min 5/12=60min

3 dog, otter, nature, other animals, countryside, bring up, meeting and parting

4 a when Maxwell pick eels up to feed to otter, Mijbil, he bit Maxwell.
Then, he seemed very unhappy. As Maxwell carried the eels, he didn’t want them. He seemed to say. “Did I hurt you? I’m so sorry.”

4 b this animal, otter, is very intelligent. They always followed keeper and come as he called. In addition, they also use grass ball to play, eat something with hands a
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193021
Gavin Maxwell was a Scottish naturalist and author, best known for his work with otters. He was born in Scotland in 1914 to Lieutenant-Colonel Aymer Maxwell and Lady Mary Percy, whose father was the seventh Duke of Northumberland. He was raised in the small village of Elrig, near Port William, which he later described in his autobiography The House of Elrig (1965).

After serving in the Second World
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More about Gavin Maxwell...

Other Books in the Series

Ring of Bright Water (3 books)
  • The Rocks Remain
  • Raven, Seek Thy Brother (Ring of Bright Water, #3)

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“I had been working hard at my book; it was one of those rare days of authorship when everything seemed to go right; the words flowed unbidden from my pen, and the time had passed unheeded, so that it was a shock to realise that I had been writing for some six hours.” 4 likes
“There is something deeply awe-inspiring about the sight of any living creatures in incomputable numbers; it stirs, perhaps, some atavistic chord whose note belongs more properly to the distant days when we were a true part of the animal ecology; when the sight of another species in unthinkable hosts brought fears or hopes no longer applicable.” 3 likes
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