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Book Review: Nature Cure by Richard Mabey

Nature Cure

Mabey, R. 2008 Nature Cure Vintage Press ISBN 978 0 099 53182 1

Richard Mabey’s descent into clinical depression, following the huge success of his seminal Flora Britannica was devastating and total – he could neither work nor play, nor sustain relationships with family or friends. He was drinking too much — and, worst of all, had lost all pleasure in the outside world. This reflective and subtle book charts his gradual return to invigorated joyfulness.

Richard Mabey had lived his whole life in the Chilterns. As a boy, he had tramped over the hills, bird-watching and botanizing. As a man, he purchased a large wood, which he studied in detail over a number of years. He drew on the experience of the Chilterns in all his writings. When depression dragged him under, he felt as if all this was lost, denied, destroyed. In Nature Cure he describes how circumstances forced him to change his habitat — from hills and chalk to watery fens and flat open spaces. He moved to Norfolk. He fell in love. Slowly, he started to lift his eyes and look about him.

Drawing always on the metaphors and myths of nature — the migration of birds, the magic of the changing seasons — he shows how the British countryside increased his understanding of what really matters and restored his sense of wonder.

Billed as a journey through depression the the real story is his examination of man’s inner relationships with the natural world. And he is a person who has access to a fantastic store of knowledge about nature.

It is very readable, lyrical and often thought provoking journey. Mabey has a deep and comprehensive affinity with the countryside and ecology and writes about it quite beautifully.

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