I know September is a busy time in the book publishing calendar, but WOW, the timing of this one is just so impeccably perfect.
Wintering: A Season With Geese by Stephen Rutt, is an ode to geese. The day I picked it up and began reading, was the day the weather turned to autumn, and the first time I noticed those V-shaped skeins above. They were migrating geese, returning here for the winter from colder parts of the world, such as Russia, Canada and Iceland.
This book has lifted my spirits. I mourn a little when the swifts, swallows and house martins leave. I love summer and warmth and light, and when they go, I feel flat and resigned to the long months until they return. I’ve always noticed geese returning, but this book has opened my eyes to their beauty, their stories and their link to us.
I now rejoice to see them; small celebrations in the impending gloom.
And Stephen has written the kind of nature book I love because it is about him too; a move to Scotland, a change of climate that can impact mental health, a journey of discovery. It’s a reality that makes you smile, because it is your own too. When out goose watching, Stephen says, “I would have stayed on […], but I am subject to the whims of the bus timetable and I have to leave half way through the day; and anyway we have a Tesco delivery due.”
Thank you Stephen, for being a real human being with supermarket deliveries, just like me. Nature meshes with your life, rather than being something separate that we can always dedicate hours and hours to finding. I enjoyed the existential, honest moments many of us have; “I struggle with myself and why I am not the vegetarian or vegan that I think I probably should be.” Yep, me too. This makes Wintering relatable and real.
The book is split into categories of goose: Pink-footed Geese, Barnacle Geese, Greylag Geese, Brent Geese, White-fronted Geese and Bean Geese. Each an exploration and discovery that we take hand in hand with Stephen – for his love of geese is a new one.
It was delicious discovering the otherness and wildness of these geese, so different to Victoria and Albert, the two cantankerous, lumpen farmyard geese that I see on a daily basis.
History meshes with adventure and current conservation information, in a style that flows, bright and bouncy to read, cutting through the gloom.
This is a book to pick up right now, to discover the wonder of looking up to the skies and the obsessive pleasure of focusing on one creature, like a talisman. And maybe, just maybe, it will help me find the joy of winter months.
Wintering is published today, 26th September. I was gifted this book by Elliott & Thompson and this is my honest review.
Wintering: A Season With Geese, by Stephen Rutt (Elliott & Thompson, 2019), hardback, £12.99