The Wise Hours
A Journey into the Wild and Secret World of Owls
People Pick of the Week
“Unfailingly precise and lovingly poetic. . . . Nature writing of the first order.” —The Wall Street Journal
“A beautiful book; wise and sharp-eared as its subject.” —Robert Macfarlane
One minute I was sipping my tea by the window. There was nothing but the palest edge of grey light and a wisp of steam from my cup—and then a shadow swooped out of the air. With the lightest of scratches, as if the dawn light was solidifying into life, there it was, perched like an exclamation mark on the balcony: an owl, come to my home.
Owls have existed for over sixty million years, and in the relatively short time we have shared the planet with these majestic birds they have ignited the human imagination. But even as owls continue to captivate our collective consciousness, celebrated British nature writer Miriam Darlington finds herself struck by all she doesn’t know about the true nature of these enigmatic creatures.
Darlington begins her fieldwork in the British Isles with her teenage son, Benji. As her avian fascination grows, she travels to France, Serbia, Spain, Finland, and the frosted Lapland borders of the Arctic for rare encounters with the Barn Owl, Tawny Owl, Long-eared Owl, Pygmy Owl, Snowy Owl, and more. But when her son develops a mysterious illness, her quest to understand the elusive nature of owls becomes entangled with her search for finding a cure.
In The Wise Hours, Darlington watches and listens to the natural world and to the rhythms of her home and family, inviting readers to discover the wonders of owls alongside her while rewilding our imagination with the mystery, fragility, and magnificence of all creatures.
“While tracing the history and science of owls, the author must confront another haunting enigma: her son’s mysterious illness.”
—People Magazine, Book of the Week
[A] project to preserve owl awe.
Unfailingly precise and lovingly poetic. . . . Nature writing of the first order.
—The Wall Street Journal
Flights of poetic prose raise a shiver. . . . proves we don’t need life lessons to appreciate the world’s marvels.
—The Washington Post
A smooth mixture of memoir and nature writing. . . . Lyrical and captivating. . . . heartfelt, enchanting, and beautifully written.
—Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
Lyrical. . . . moving. . . . Dazzling.
—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
Beautiful. . . . wonderfully informative and enjoyable.
Open this book, and be thrilled to look at the owl with an even more profound sense of knowledge.
—The Muskogee Phoenix
Heartfelt. . . . Darlington’s work is as unique and enchanting as its subjects.
Lovely. . . . An excellent read. . . . Whether dissecting owl pellets, collecting strange samples or braving the elements (or her own foibles), Darlington brings a sense of wonder to her writing.
Vivid and engaging.
Perceptive and affecting.
A beautiful book; wise and sharp-eared as its subject.
—Tristan Gooley, author of How to Read Nature
A lyrical examination of the interweaving place owls hold in nature and human culture; Darlington writes with intimacy and beauty.
—Jonathan C. Slaght, author of Owls of the Eastern Ice
Beautiful descriptions of these magnificent creatures and their habitats.
—P.D. Smith, author of City
Darlington brings humor, humility, and a refreshing subjectivity to her quest to understand these charismatic creatures.
—Melissa Harrison, author of All Among the Barley
A delight. Darlington’s vision, sensitivity and word craft are vital.
—Caspar Henderson, author of A New Map of Wonders