Posted 20 hours ago

Late Light: 'An astonishing read' - AMY LIPTROT, AUTHOR OF THE OUTRUN

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That was a really good aspect to it, and gave fascinating info about those creatures – I wasn’t so bad with moths as we have an interest in those, but knew little about eels and mussels! Malay’s prose is gorgeous and astute; he looks with fresh eyes at unpopular species and finds poetry and meaning. Through his journeys to understand the lives of four "unloved" animals, Michael Malay pays a debt of deep respect to the Earth and its interconnectedness. I finished reading it and went for a walk on Troopers Hill with my family a couple of days later, which is the place on the front cover of the book. From these ostensibly discrete threads is woven a large, heartbreakingly resonant story: for Malay is interested above all in connectedness — in what these species tell us about the pasts and possible futures of the great world that pulses around us, and what their loss will mean for the other animals, including humans, who have evolved alongside them.

It's also peppered with lots of very interesting natural and social history that is weaved throughout the memoir, and takes subjects that can seem quite remote and academic (migration patterns, ecology) and not only makes them feel very interesting and immediate but also shows (in a very unsermonising way) how alienated we've become from the natural world. We are experiencing delays with deliveries to many countries, but in most cases local services have now resumed.Late Light is the story of Michael Malay's own journey, an Indonesian-Australian-American making a home for himself in England and finding strange parallels between his life and the lives of the animals he examines. My first exposure to different places was just holidaying in Northern France, which is pretty well the same as here, but I was stunned by the dryness in Tunisia and New Mexico, after living all my life somewhere that’s always vaguely damp! There are fascinating points about land that is reclaimed by nature that fits in with the rewilding books I’ve been reading, but going deeper into smaller areas again.

It really captures something about the way our focus and experience of the world shifts, dilates and contracts in the moment as we move through it and encounter it. In underscoring the concept of basic dignity as being the right of all species and illuminating the idea of an expansive, planetary politics, Malay offers a bright, fierce hope for the future. Befriending naturalists and birders, he began to learn the names of the species and the phenomena that shaped this new life of his: downs; combes; brambles; oystercatcher; skylark – it was the beginning of a love affair. Each year for eons, millions of juvenile eels have journeyed east from the Sargasso Sea to the rivers of Europe: to rest, grow, feed, and at last swim west again across the Atlantic to spawn and die.Theresa May's 'hostile environment' for migrants is name-checked explicitly, commenting on how the ways we talk about people and nature can be wildly different, despite the unity we should be feeling.

Late Light brings the refreshing perspective of someone who goes from seeing England as a foreign place to someone who deeply studies its secret wonders.Worth saying as well, despite how I may have made it sound, this book is eminently readable, and despite the subject matter it's also by no means a depressing read - a little melancholy perhaps, but after reading it I felt more ready to engage with these issues than I have for several months. They were like pebbles found on a beach, shapely and good to hold, and some opened strange vistas onto the past. His creative writing has been widely published, including in Little Toller's online magazine The Clearing (of which he was also a co-editor), The Willowherb Review and Dark Mountain.

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