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Last of the Curlews Hardcover – September 1, 1995


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 174 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint; Reprint edition (September 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1887178007
  • ISBN-13: 978-1887178006
  • Product Dimensions: 7.2 x 5.5 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #712,403 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Pulitzer Prize-winning poet W.S. Merwin found this slim 1955 novel on a shelf in the house of friends, and, struck with the "plain, succinct evocation and beauty" of Fred Bodsworth's writing, suggested its reissue to a publisher. This is a quick, elegant, devastating read. The Eskimo curlew was a species of shorebird that migrated (and perhaps, in extremely small numbers, still migrates) south from arctic Canada every fall, in a flight that took it eastward across Canada, and then, after feeding, south over the Atlantic to South America--this latter journey nearly 2,500 miles of nonstop flight. The curlew was almost unique among shorebirds for its ability to make this grueling passage.

Bodsworth, a respected ornithologist, makes us care about his fictional bird protagonist--a lone curlew in search of a mate--while still cautiously riding the line between description and anthropomorphism. Of his curlew preparing for a mate, he writes: "He waited within the borders of his territory, flying in tightening circles and calling excitedly as the other bird came nearer. The female was coming. The three empty summers that the male had waited vainly and alone on his breeding territory were a vague, tormenting memory, now almost lost in a brain so keenly keyed to instinctive responses that there was little capacity for conscious thought or memory."

The demise of this species at the hands of hunters and hungry consumers was so rapid and thorough that the "millions that darkened the sky" in Newfoundland in the 1870s during their annual migration were reduced to only a few lone fliers by the 1890s. An afterword by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Murray Gell-Mann and line drawings by Abigail Rorer add context to this remarkable book. --Maria Dolan

From the Inside Flap

The Eskimo curlew, which once made its migration from Patagonia to the Arctic in flocks so dense that they darkened the sky, was brought to the verge of extinction by the wanton slaughter of game-hunters.

Following the doomed search of a solitary curlew for a female of its kind, Fred Bodsworth?s novel is a haunting indictment of man?s destruction of the natural world. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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I read this book in one sitting - very captivating read.
Lincoln S. Dall
In all likelihood, the Eskimo Curlew is gone for good - following in the footsteps of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, Passenger Pigeon and Carolina Parakeet.
Joseph A. Verica
The book is peppered with prose as lyrical as poetry, yet contains facts that help the reader understand the curlew and its extinction.
Deborah Verlen

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By J. Guild TOP 1000 REVIEWER on November 15, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is a Classic and recognized as one of the finest Natural History books in North America as well as abroad.First published in 1955 it has been re-issued ,probably as many as 20 times over the years. Suffice it to say ,anyone with any interest in nature,birds, extinct species,conservation,preservation of species,would find this an excellent read.As a matter of fact,I would go so far as to suggest that after reading this book,one would probably agree it is the best natural history book they have ever read.Just look at the other reviews.

The main reason for my writing this review is to tell you that after reading 'The Last of the Curlews'you might want to read some of Bodsworth's other lesser known but also excellent works.

"The Strange One"

"The Sparrows Fall"

"The Atonement of Ashley Morden"

and,

"The Pacific Coast"

Another excellent thing about 'The Last of the Curlews' are the superb scratch board illustrations by T M Shortt,one of Canada's finest artists;so make sure they are in the edition you get.

With regards to my title...for several decades the search has continued without success.There have been a few reports of sightings,but none confirmed.There is a lot of territory in it's range,between the tip of South America and the Arctic Circle where there may be survivors...there's always hope.

I still see Fred on occasion;so let's hope we see another book from him soon.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By J. Blue Chattigre (chattigre@earthlink.net) on October 7, 1999
Format: Paperback
I doubt anyone will ever see this review, but I thought I'd submit one anyway. Never have I experienced a book that so forced me to put it down every few pages, from its overwhelming sadness and beauty. Merwin, who championed this rare gem, once wrote: "If I were not human, I would have nothing to be ashamed of." Truly, this is the kind of reading experience that cuts to the core of our species' tragic history.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Cindy Smith on June 13, 2000
Format: Paperback
Bodsworth is brilliant in his capacity to provide the reader with an emotionally arrousing text, supported by fascinating technical details of bird migration. I cannot imagine that anyone having even a remote interest in birds, nature or life, would not be moved by this great piece.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By K Scheffler on June 11, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is a wonderful, heart-wrenching short book, a fictionalization of the migration of a lone Eskimo Curlew from the arctic to South America and back.
The Eskimo Curlew was once a plentiful shorebird that was highly sought after by hunters because of the succulence of its flesh and the ease with which it could be taken. Usually flying in dense swarms, a score or more birds could be brought down by a single shotgun blast. In some cases so many were killed, that the hunters left those that could not be transported to market in massive piles. And so it came to pass that by the late 19th-century, the Eskimo Curlew population declined rapidly, to the point where it was virtually extinct at the time Bodsworth wrote the book.
Although a work of fiction, this is a book that should be read by everyone who has an interest in Nature and the environment.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Brian Allen VINE VOICE on October 29, 2007
Format: Paperback
This book received excellent reviews from the New York Times and other leading book reviewers because of its moving story. This is an intense little book, very easily read in an evening, about a year in the life of one of the last Eskimo Curlews in existence.

This book takes you on the migration journey of the Curlew and vividly illustrates its struggle for survival. It also showcases historical notes about the slaughter of the curlews in the late 1800's and the notes of alarm raised by scientists that unfortunately did not initiate conservation measures to help this species.

I had read one other book like this about the Passenger Pigeon, that told the story of a species and its struggle to avoid the slaughter of the market hunters of the 1800's. This book though is the best of the type as
Bodsworth is a skilled writer and is able to show the life of the Eskimo Curlew in heart-wrenching detail without anthropomorophism.

I would encourage everyone to read this and pass it around for others to read as it is quickly read but has powerful impact. To have some emotional concern or motivation to help protect threatened species of life on this earth you need empathy and this book is a masterpiece at producing that empathy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Lincoln S. Dall on June 25, 2012
Format: Paperback
This book is about the last of the Eskimo Curlew, a very common species of bird that migrated from the Arctic to South America every year. This book follows one lone Eskimo Curlew as it makes its way through the migration route and looks for a mate. In alternate chapters with this narrative, the author provides scientific reports about the extinction of this species. I read this book in one sitting - very captivating read. I lived in a rain forest jungle in the country of Ecuador from 1996 to 1999, where I saw the clear cutting of the jungle and the mass destruction of all the animals and wildlife that lived there. We still have not learned and there is so much destruction of our environment that takes place today. Those experiences from my missionary work in the jungle came to my mind as I read this book. This would be a great book for youths to read, but adults as well.
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