From Publishers Weekly
In a gorgeous hybrid of naturalist observation, novelistic invention and philosophical meditation, Klinkenborg, a member of the New York Times
editorial board and chronicler of the rural life (Making Hay
), views the English countryside through the eyes of a tortoise and gives his human readers rich food for thought. For 13 years, Timothy the tortoise lived amid the bounty of 18th-century curate and amateur naturalist Gilbert White's garden. White, author of A Natural History of Selbourne
, had inherited the reptile from his aunt, who had kept her (Timothy was a female, "stolen from the [Mediterranean] ruins I was basking on" and brought to "cold, manicured" England) for thrice as long. Timothy, as Klinkenborg imagines her, is melancholic, wise, resigned; her patient narration reveals extraordinary powers of observation and empathy: "the Hampshire sky staggers me now with loveliness. Creeping fogs in the pastures. Gossamer on the stubbles. The parish rings with light. Whole being of the world distilled into a moment." The only plot is the passage of time, and Timothy's scrutiny of life around her: humans are "great soft tottering beasts" who, blinded by their humanness, believe that "the language of the brute creation is no language at all." This "true story," as Klinkenborg describes it, offers studied, beautiful reflections on the present and memory, earth and weather, love and utility, human and beast. This is a wholly unexpected and astonishing book. (Feb.)
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Although Timothy technically lives on a shelf in London's Natural History Museum, in Klinkenborg's hands she's alive and kicking in White's garden. On the editorial board of the New York Times
and author of "The Rural Life" column and three books, Klinkenborg (through Timothy's voice) turns small observations about nature into powerful ideas about beauty, nature, humanity, and our role in the natural world. In wise, opinionated, and truncated language, Timothy captures the vagaries and hypocrisies of humans while stressing his own, isolated life. Timothy
, "a work of both speculative naturalism and speculative biography" (Los Angeles Times
), is natural history at its best: thoughtful, meditative, and even magical.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.