Friday, 20 June 2008

'The Modern Successor to Gilbert White'

In Bruce Forsyth terms, all my authors are my favourites. In George Orwell terms, some books are more favourites than others, and one of those, Ken Burnett's The Field by the River, is published next month. When the manuscript originally came in on submission, it was one of those books that didn't quite fit in any of our established categories, but I felt immediately that it was plenty good enough to break the rules to publish. In a way, that's what publishing should be all about -- leading and not following the industry obsession with genres and pigeonholing.

But don't just take my word that this book is a cracker. Indra Sinha describes the author as 'the modern successor to Gilbert White', and Paul Henderson in last week's Bookseller, described it as thus:

'I'm lucky enough to live in a house with a garden by a river (stream), and I spend a seemingly inordinate amount of time in the garden, watching and listening to the wildlife around me, wondering if there is a snake under that piece of corrugated iron, why there are so many slugs, and occassionally: 'F**king Hell! A Kingfisher!' Coupled with knowing that publisher Tom Bromley lives locally, is often on my train and is very keen on the book, it was easy to imagine The Field by the River by Ken Burnett might be up my street. And it was. A year of closely observed nature from a Scotsman living in France -- a cross between Peter Mayle and Gilbert White -- it follows the natural history of his field over the course of a year, together with three bloodthirsty dogs. It's very charming and although his humour didn't really do it for me, he conjures the sense of awe in the miniature well, and the day-to-day lives of spiders, mice, mushrooms and so on. You can feel his love and enthusiasm for the place -- it sits happily with contemporary natural history and should have broad appeal.'

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