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Summary

Leaving her garden to the mercy of the slugs, award-winning writer Alys Fowler set out in an inflatable kayak to explore Birmingham's canal network, full of little-used waterways where huge pike skulk and kingfishers dart. Her book is about noticing the wild everywhere and what it means to see beauty where you least expect it.

What happens when someone who has learned to observe her external world in such detail decides to examine her internal world with the same care? Beautifully written, honest and very moving, Hidden Nature is also the story of Alys Fowler's emotional journey: above all, this book is about losing and finding, exploring familiar places and discovering unknown horizons.

©2017 Alys Fowler (P)2017 Hodder & Stoughton Limited

Critic reviews

"'I felt as if I'd paddled into a new country.' The gardening author and Guardian columnist with a distinctive memoir in which she forsakes her garden and takes to paddling Birmingham's little-used canal network in an inflatable kayak. The time and space she allows herself for nature observation - kingfishers, waterlilies, pikes, freshwater mussels and blackberries are all beautifully reflected on - is mirrored by her exploration of her internal self, particularly in the light of leaving her marriage and coming out as gay. An enchanting book which somehow manages to be both gutsy and delightfully soothing." ( The Bookseller)

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A small beautiful journey of discovery

An honest book about a difficult decision. It's a memoir about coming out, about making difficult decisions and hurting people without meaning to and about finding joy in the scrappy edges of nature down on the canals of Birmingham. That makes it sound odd but it's really good and makes you appreciate look things you'd never noticed . After I'd read it I went out and bought a gardening book and one about wild flowers - it's that kind of book

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Very cleverly written.

Cleverly written. Honest and humble. Wonderful use of metaphors and images describing the nature outside to point towards the turmoil inside. Very helpful for someone on a similar journey . Thank you. r

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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NOT WHAT I EXPECTED

Far too much about Alys's 'coming out' for me. I have no problems with people of different sexualities but it isn't my chosen listening material.
I suspect she wrote the book simply as a means of explaining her struggles and threw in the wildlife bits after. The wildlife bits are limited to what lives in and around UK canals.
For all that it wasn't a bad 'listen' and helped relieve the boredom of decorating!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Mr
  • 12-06-17

Spellbinding

A wonderful, and sometimes heartbreaking book. The perfectly balanced story of how one woman found the wonders of a world close to water, of what it gave her in payment of her attention. This is a fantastic narration, whether you are of the boating persuasion or not

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Jean
  • 24-05-17

Engaging

Fowler wanted an adventure and to be alone with nature. She thought about climbing in the Andes Mountains, but then reality brought her to seek something closer to home.

Fowler bought a portable, inflatable kayak that she could put into a backpack to explore the canals of Birmingham. The author describes some of the canals that were built in the 1790s. Fowler describes the wildlife and plant life that grows along the banks and in the water. She tells of paddling through the Dudley tunnel and through the Gast Street Basin as well as the Oozell Street Loop. Fowler also describes the floating rubbish, discarded industrial equipment and even floating coconut shells. I got a big kick out of her encounter with the geese.

The book is well written and researched. This is a sort of travel memoir. The book made me want to paddle the canals and observe nature. It also made me want to clean up the garbage in and along the canals and fight to have the canals dredged. I think if they were cleaned up they would make a great recreational area for people. Fowler states that volunteers are working to re-establish some of the forgotten canals that are unusable. The author made paddling the canals sound like great fun. I understand the book was on the short list for the Wainwright Prize.

The book was seven and a half hours long. Miranda Bunny Cook does an excellent job narrating the book. Cook is an actress and audiobook narrator.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful