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Book DetailsISBN: 9781925603941
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Book Review: Europe: A Natural History by Tim Flannery - Reviewed by CloggieA (09 Oct 2018)
4 stars Europe: A Natural History is a non-fiction book by Australian scientist, explorer and conservationist, Tim Flannery. In his introduction he says he aims to “answer three great questions. How was Europe formed? How was its extraordinary history discovered? And why did Europe come to be so important in the world?”
To achieve this, Flannery needs to give the reader a LOT of information. It is quickly apparent that he is an expert in this field, so distilling the wealth of his knowledge into a manageable 300 pages (excluding comprehensive Endnotes and Index) would have been no enviable task. And the information is accessible: relatively easy to follow for a novice, with abundant references should the reader's interest is piqued by a certain topic.
This could all be terribly dry, dusty and maybe a bit boring, but this is Tim Flannery, so readers shouldn’t be surprised to find themselves laughing out loud fairly regularly: “Between 30 million and one million years ago painted frogs abounded in Europe, but then they became extinct. In 1940 biologists collected two adult frogs and two tadpoles in the vicinity of Lake Hula, in what is now Israel. To everyone’s astonishment, they were painted frogs. The larger of the two promptly ate its smaller companion…”
If many of the creatures that Flannery writes about are incredibly bizarre, then no less odd and frequently quirky are some of the people who discover, investigate, study and write about all those rocks, fossils and life forms. For example, Hans Stehlin who “…had become something of a legend for his dogged pursuit of palaeontology, but it seems there was more to his dedication than scientific interest. According to museum folklore he had been thwarted in love, and to forget his misfortune had poured all his energy and passion into his work. Handsome, with a Freud-like beard and piercing eyes, it was also said that he had perfected the death stare. Whenever he required the skeleton of some exotic beast to compare with his fossil bones, he would visit Basel Zoo and stare at the appropriate animal, which would soon thereafter shuffle off its mortal coil.”
As Flannery works through the answers to those questions he poses, he gives plenty of examples, but be prepared also for lots of migration, and not just of people and fauna, but also of flora and ice caps and land masses. And the pronunciation of some of some of those species and genus names may prove a challenge to the tongue and possibly the brain. This is an interesting, informative, often thought-provoking and ultimately hopeful read.
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