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The Nature Notebooks Hardcover – February 1, 2004


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 225 pages
  • Publisher: University Press of New England; 1st edition (February 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1584653574
  • ISBN-13: 978-1584653578
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,732,137 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

A surprise new student to a nature-writing group in Vermont triggers the radicalization of some residents of a small town facing the development of a ski lodge on Mount Mansfield. The newcomer is Kyle Hess, author of a well-regarded nature book and, unbeknownst to most of his classmates, a fugitive from the California eco-terrorist scene. Hess uses his considerable charm on three female members of the group to heighten their interest in nature to the point where they are willing to commit to helping him help other activists sabotage the ski-lodge development. Written in the form of separate entries from nature notebooks maintained by the three women, the narrative slowly reveals their personalities and sensibilities: Lauren, a farmer and llama breeder; Marianna, a widow and real-estate agent; and Rachel, an extreme-sports enthusiast. Using the particular vulnerabilities of the women, Kyle manipulates each of them into making modest efforts to conserve nature, which then escalate into the more radical actions of eco-terrorists. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Review

"Trouble ensues when an environazi from the Left Coast hatches a plan to take down a mountain development—Witty, intelligent activist-caper, with a thought-provoking narrative that doesn't get swamped in its own satire."—Kirkus Reviews

"He convincingly captures the nuances of several strands of 21st-century environmentalism, from Hess's self-righteous extremism to the sheep farmer's earnest efforts to balance her love of the land with its human uses."—Yankee

"The Nature Notebooks is one of the most entertaining and thought-provoking novels I've read in a long time."—Howard Frank Mosher, The Burlington Free Press

"A surprise new student to a nature-writing group in Vermont triggers the radicalization of some residents of a small town facing the development of a ski lodge on Mount Mansfield. The newcomer is Kyle Hess, author of a well-regarded nature book and, unbeknownst to most of his classmates, a fugitive from the California eco-terrorist scene. Hess uses his considerable charm on three female members of the group to heighten their interest in nature to the point where they are willing to commit to helping him help other activists sabotage the ski-lodge development. Written in the form of separate entries from nature notebooks maintained by the three women, the narrative slowly reveals their personalities and sensibilities: Lauren, a farmer and llama breeder; Marianna, a widow and real-estate agent; and Rachel, an extreme-sports enthusiast. Using the particular vulnerabilities of the women, Kyle manipulates each of them into making modest efforts to conserve nature, which then escalate into the more radical actions of eco-terrorists."—Booklist

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By George on May 5, 2004
Format: Hardcover
While the issues of conservation vs. development are timely, the impressive achievement of Mitchell's book is the narrative. He cleverly tells his story Roshomon-style through the "nature notebooks" of three women who are all in the same nature writing class. The different perspectives offer an unfolding understanding of a series of events culminating in a tragedy. The pleasure comes in the new level of comprehension provided by each of the three narratives. You'll want to keep flipping back to compare the earlier accounts.
Very engaging.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Richard D. Cochran on April 25, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is an extremely well-written book that will both entertain and challenge the reader. Mitchell uses three different female voices to tell a complex story of eco-terrorism at Mt Mansfield, VT. While I did enjoy exploring the substantive moral and ethical issues raised by Mitchell's narrative, I most enjoyed the storytelling - the form of it, the back and forth, the masterful use of three distinct female voices, the slow build to a dramatic ending - this is a must read for anyone who loves a good book.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Beth Quinn Barnard on February 7, 2011
Format: Hardcover
With this novel, which has been sitting on my shelf for several years, I've completed a quartet of books my daughter read in a January term class at Middlebury College, where Mitchell teaches, as do the authors of the other novels -- Sweet Water, Inspired Sleep and The Book of Hard Things, which all earned three stars. This book earned only two from me because of problems with form, voice, and character, and although I didn't really like it, I can't imagine ever giving a single star -- if I disliked a book that much, I wouldn't finish it.

The form of Mitchell's novel is excerpts covering the same five-week period from the notebooks of three women enrolled in a nature-writing workshop in Burlington, VT, that are bookended by a foreword and afterword written by the workshop leader. There are two big challenges for a writer employing this format. First, journals violate a basic rule of successful fiction -- they tell rather than show. In the hands of a gifted storyteller, telling works, but the writers of these notebooks aren't gifted storytellers. Second, journals are written by I-I-I about me-me-me, and if one is hard to take, three back-to-back can be deadly. Mitchell's novel did not overcome the challenges posed by his chosen form.

The voices of the four women in the novel didn't ring true to me. Simply put: I didn't buy them as women. It wasn't that Mitchell as a man failed to evoke these women accurately and well. Despite multiple sexual encounters, the three diarists all seemed strangely neuter to me. Not once did I have an ah-ha moment where I thought, I've felt like that.

Finally, the characters of the novel -- four women and the lover they share -- failed to grab me emotionally. In fact, I pretty much actively disliked all five.
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