The Spirit of the River by Declan Murphy

The new book from critically acclaimed nature writer, Declan Murphy.

‘As I study the birds, animals and plants around me, I cannot help but see the patterns all living things seem driven to create.’

Declan Murphy’s childhood encounter with a kingfisher in Wicklow was unforgettable. Returning to the rivers years later, he embarks upon a journey to study this most elusive of birds during its nesting season. Yet as dippers, goosanders, grey wagtails and great spotted woodpeckers all yield their hidden habits to the author’s patient pursuit, the kingfisher continues to elude him.

When an unexpected incident threatens to shatter a delicate balance between the natural and workaday, the author is thrown into crisis. His retreat into the natural world, however, is not simply a distraction: its shapes, rhythms and sounds become a lifeline essential in navigating an emotional landscape. Faced with the prospect of a catastrophic loss, he harnesses the power of nature to fight for all that he holds dear, as the kingfisher becomes his Holy Grail.

With a foreword by global youth activist and environmentalist Lilly Platt, Declan Murphy brings the beauty and mystery of the animal kingdom into the light. Writing with hallucinatory clarity and awareness of man’s fragility, The Spirit of the River follows the mould of the great contemporary nature writers Robert Macfarlane, Helen Macdonald and Tim Robinson. Here the author’s quest becomes the reader’s through this visceral articulation of an ‘Unaccommodated man’.


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