As Kingfishers Catch Fire is a memoir/gallimaufry of ornithological obsession by Alex Preston. He watches birds in the sky and on the page darting between myths, stories and memoir like a swift. The characterful illustrations by Neil Gower add a whole new dimension to this gorgeous book.
Neil Gower is a genius. It's as simple as that.
Alex Preston, better known for his novels, joined forces with artist Neil Gower to produce the delightful As Kingfishers Catch Fire, an original look at the literature inspired by Britain's birdlife.
A magical book: an inimitable fusion of ornithology, literary anthology and autobiography.
The cover, in the colours of a kingfisher's breast and wing, and endpapers are gorgeous, and Neil Gower's illustrations are bright and chirping. I can see it under the Christmas tree of every family with a bird feeder and a copy of the RSPB Handbook . . . Preston captures his birds beautifully.
Preston enlivens his narrative with anecdotes that persistently make you want to find out more
His pages light up with feathered magic
Preston's book is less a polemic on conservation than a plea for close looking and close listening. He believes, with Gerard Manley Hopkins (from whom he takes his title), that the world is charged with grandeur - the world of birds especially - and that our lives are the richer when we attend to that grandeur. "What thou art we know not," Shelley tells his skylark, but some of the greatest poems in the language have come from the effort to find out.
Beautifully illustrated . . . Focusing on birds from snow geese to swallows, Preston produces an impressive account of birds both in nature and literature.
As Kingfishers Catch Fire is both a joyful and a wondrous book, one that successfully captures the otherness of birds, while celebrating our yearning to transcend our lot, our yearning to touch the unknowable . . . Each bird illustrated by Gower in a mixture of gouache and watercolour that brings to mind both William Morris and Eric Ravilious
It's a luminous book. The glow will stay with me. I cried. The book is worthy of birds, and I know no higher praise.