Vesper Flights

Helen Macdonald

Vesper Flights
  • Format
  • Publisher
  • Country
  • Published
  • Pages
  • ISBN

Vesper Flights

Helen Macdonald

From the bestselling author of H is for Hawk comes a transcendent collection of essays about the natural world ‘Thrilling dispatches from a vanishing world’ Observer Animals don’t exist to teach us things, but that is what they have always done, and most of what they teach us is what we think we know about ourselves.

From the bestselling author of H is for Hawk comes Vesper Flights, a transcendent collection of essays about the human relationship to the natural world.

Helen Macdonald brings together a collection of her best-loved writing along with new pieces covering a thrilling range of subjects. There are essays here on headaches, on catching swans, on hunting mushrooms, on twentieth-century spies, on numinous experiences and high-rise buildings; on nests and wild pigs and the tribulations of farming ostriches.

Vesper Flights is a book about observation, fascination, time, memory, love and loss and how we make the world around us. Moving and frank, personal and political, it confirms Helen Macdonald as one of this century’s greatest nature writers.


I adored H is For Hawk, Helen Macdonald’s memoir of grief and falconry, which took an unconventional approach to the wellworn idea that the natural world has healing power. Macdonald explored its beauty and horror through her difficulties taming both her goshawk and her pain. That book revealed Macdonald as a genre-bending writer of sorts – part memoirist, part nature writer, part philosopher.

A collection of Macdonald’s new and selected essays offers similar intelligence, insight and comfort. Vesper Flights seeks the sublime and finds it in the majestic and the strange. Macdonald’s sense of wonder extends to wild boars; a history of modern field guides: her blinding migraines; the memory of a swan that once sat next to her and fell asleep. I love her recollection of a trip to the top of the Empire State Building to witness a rare night flight of migrating birds, capturing the absurdity of nature spotting atop this iconic steel structure. And the way she catches the synchronised terror and joy of a total solar eclipse.

Macdonald’s writing is beautiful, granting emotional rhythms and texture to unexpected things. It rejoices in the complexity of creatures great and small – ants, deer, and, always, birds. Bird nests make her think of what we mean by home. A flock of migrating cranes turns her mind to refugees, also on the move, seeking food and a safe place to rest. The title essay looks at swifts: small, light birds that fly very, very high and rarely come back down to ground. For Macdonald, these vesper flights offer a new view on what grounds us and where we are.

Macdonald says the main theme of her writing is love – mostly love for non-human species. But her writing also conveys compassion towards her own frailties and strengths, and other people’s. What’s clear is that the essays in Vesper Flights aren’t ever only about one thing. The best writing rarely is.

Joanna Di Mattia works as a bookseller at Readings Carlton.

This item is in-stock and will ship in 2-3 business days

Please note, our stock data is updated overnight, and availability may change throughout the day. Prices are subject to change without notice.

Sign in or become a Readings Member to add this title to a wishlist.