Book Review: Nature’s Child

In football parlance, the only thing more difficult than winning the league is defending your title. After Song of the Rolling Earth, John Lister-Kaye was under pressure to perform to his own high standard. But with Nature’s Child he has taken a step forward whilst strengthening his reputation as one of Scotland’s leading lyrical writers.

The detail, colour, enthusiasm and insight into the nature around him in his Highland eyrie remains, whether it be the buff-tip-moth caterpillars munching leaves or the mighty stags roaring their romantic entreaties down the glens. Lister-Kaye also widens his net to capture different sights, sounds and smells from further afield ? Shetland, Norway, Africa and the Arctic ? each described with his now expected depth of research.

The step forward, however, is his ability to view the flora and fauna through the eyes of his young daughter, Hermione, describing her naïve, childish – but no less important – reactions, and demonstrating how eye-poppingly extraordinary nature can be.

We chart Hermione’s development as a budding naturalist, as she learns to accept the ‘inevitability of death and attune her formative emotions to the stark reality of nature’s wild wheel’. We feel her panic as she is charged by a mighty bull seal, her excitement at disturbing an octopus while diving for seashells in Malta, her pride at catching scorpions in the Kalahari and her total incomprehension of rhinoceros poaching in Swaziland.

Hermione’s education is in stark contrast with the couch potato, video game culture that pervades modern society and for Lister-Kaye it is a labour of love to relate his daughter’s delight in the environment he so enjoys. The result is another beautifully written book that is both informative and uplifting, that reminds the reader how scary and fascinating the world looked when we were kids.