My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Reviewing Sir David Attenborough was always going to be a daunting prospect. After all, who am I? Do I really have the right to judge the greatest naturalist of the 20th century (if not of all time)? But I’m glad I didn’t let that stop me, because this is a beautiful story, reminiscent of Gerald Durrell’s expeditions to the pampas of South America, or even the Alby Mangels World Safaris (minus the women).
Written in a time when naturalists captured more specimens than they filmed, when land was openly cleared and slashed and burned en masse, The Zoo Quest Expeditions document a different world, one rich and diverse yet inevitably heading towards the issues we face today.
Sir David is just as humble on the page as he is on screen; and his love of nature and respect for people just as obvious. He is at times self-deprecating; at other times he crows with delight, certain in his knowledge and skills. And then, as in the ending, he’s so deadpan he’s hilarious (don’t jump to it or you’ll spoil it – you have to know why he says it first).
At first I tried to force the distinctive Sir David voice in my head as I read, but I couldn’t do it. Not all that surprising when you compare his book self with his documentary self: think Sir David in an episode of Frozen Planet where he says nothing for whole minutes, until a polar bear enters the shot – and then he simply says ‘bears’. Now think Sir David on the page, with no such pictures to paint the story, where he is more like the Sir David of interviews, or his Natural Curiosities series.
This is an outstanding episode in the life of Sir David Attenborough and a joy to read. No wonder it’s been resissued in time for Christmas!
I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.