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A Land

4.22  ·  Rating Details ·  37 Ratings  ·  10 Reviews
A pioneering work of modern nature writing; a natural history of the author's beloved British Isles that inhabits a lush territory somewhere between science and poetry.
Paperback, 268 pages
Published April 30th 1991 by Beacon Press (first published 1951)
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Alex Sarll
A wilfully personal account of Britain through geology, archaeology, architectural history, palaeontology, social history - described by its author as a memoir, her own impression of life on time, no different to the traces of a prehistoric herring in the ancient mud. I read it on holiday, with trips across Salisbury Plain to the Jurassic Coast, which was the perfect place to read it, but any tour of Britain would be the perfect place to read it - or just lying on Primrose Hill, where Hawkes ope ...more
Feb 12, 2008 Heather rated it it was amazing
A unique mixture of geology, archaeology, psychology, and land use analysis. I love the second half because it's less science and more analysis about man's interaction with the land. A subtle and spiritual look at the world through the interesting lens of geology.
Jun 10, 2008 April rated it it was amazing
This book is lovely and poetic, but also immediate and necessary even though it is over 50 years old.
Mar 19, 2017 Chuck rated it liked it
In the tradition of Rousseau, von Humboldt, Thoreau, Laxness, and others . . . a meditative exploration of our relationship with the land . . . specifically its causal bi-directionality: we change the land, and it also changes us. Hawkes succeeds in sharing her love of the UK with us, and (in my case) rekindling my own love of the UK. Written in 1949 (published in 1951), the book is barely diminished by the passage of 68 years.
This is a really interesting, different book that is almost impossible to categorise. I'd classify it as nature writing, but it has a distinctly personal feel. Hawkes combines elements of geology, archeology, anthropology and history with lyrical prose to create a unique view of the natural history of Britain. To my surprise, I actually preferred the more scientific first half to the second half (which focuses on the impact of humans on the land), but there is engaging and relevant material thro ...more
Oct 11, 2012 Neale rated it really liked it
Shelves: nature-writing
A remarkable book - a sort of scientific and poetic history of deep time, from somewhere in England.

What makes it particularly interesting is the time when it was written, just after the Second World War - there is something of the imaginative exuberance of Mervyn Peake and Dylan Thomas and J. R. R. Tolkien and Robert Graves and other post-war British fantasists, reacting perhaps to a time of both austerity and hope. And also that it is written from a female perspective.

The opening description
"A pioneering work of modern nature writing: a natural history of the author's beloved British Isles that inhabits a lush territory somewhere between science and poetry."
~~back cover

I suppose in its day (1951) it was pioneering. And it certainly isn't a straight natural history. The evolution of dinosaurs and mammals is also included, ending in a flowery, angry diatribe about the devastation that "progress" has made on the land and on the people and culture. The book is written in a style not cu
Beautiful and wonderfully evocative at times as well as slightly obsessive sounding at others. Some of the science of geology may have moved on, but the second half, of the towns and the cities, is so precisely right so often. The presence of Wordsworth throughout is encapsulated beautifully in the end.
A difficult book to categorize because it is a synthesis of many disciplines. Hawkes' deep love of her native soil shines throughout as she examines how England became the nation that it is though a treatise on its geography.
Jan 22, 2013 Ken marked it as reference-book-reading
This was originally published in 1951 but I am reading the new 2012 edition published by Collins as part of their Nature Library. It has an introduction by Robert Macfarlane .
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