Late Light: 'An astonishing read' - AMY LIPTROT, AUTHOR OF THE OUTRUN
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That was a really good aspect to it, and gave fascinating info about those creatures – I wasn’t so bad with moths as we have an interest in those, but knew little about eels and mussels! Coming to the West Country of England via Indonesia and Australia, Malay gives a newcomer’s view of the British countryside, writing with precision, fascination and humour, picking out tiny details that a local might not even notice thanks to familiarity. This book considers the miraculous life cycles of a small group of species — eel, cricket, moth, mussel — and explains in pitiless detail the reasons for their looming extinction at our hands. His creative writing has been widely published, including in Little Toller's online magazine The Clearing (of which he was also a co-editor), The Willowherb Review and Dark Mountain.
He spent his early years in Jakarta, Indonesia, before moving to Australia with his family at the age of ten. The Somerset Levels is a fascinating area for wildlife, quite different from the rest of the West Country. What elevates this book further for me is his ability to draw links to the politics of such a move, and this book is not naive about the very present realities for many people moving across countries.Its a thoughtfully written and at times quite personal memoir about someone who becomes fascinated by 'uncharismatic' animals that are threatened by the spectre and ongoing reality of extinction and ecological collapse - we follow them on their investigations and encounters with these creatures and the people who care for them, as they draw parallels and insights that are related back to the chapter themes. Through his journeys to understand the lives of four "unloved" animals, Michael Malay pays a debt of deep respect to the Earth and its interconnectedness. That’s a fascinating set of parallels he seems to draw, and I do love the idea of focusing on creatures often neglected (Blyton in Adventures of Pip chose to highlight smaller animals and insects which I loved too).
A chapter from that book, 'American Blue', was recently shortlisted for the Wasafiri Writing Prize (autumn, 2020). His voice is fresh, passionate, and beautifully attuned to the layers of enchantment and melancholy that emerge from the living world in today's challenging times. Although I had a few books published in July on my NetGalley TBR already, I couldn’t resist requesting this one, as it was described thus: “Late Light is the story of Michael Malay’s own journey, an Indonesian-Australian-American making a home for himself in England and finding strange parallels between his life and the lives of the animals he examines”.
I finished reading it and went for a walk on Troopers Hill with my family a couple of days later, which is the place on the front cover of the book. For more details, please consult the latest information provided by Royal Mail's International Incident Bulletin. Befriending naturalists and birders, he began to learn the names of the species and the phenomena that shaped this new life of his: downs; combes; brambles; oystercatcher; skylark – it was the beginning of a love affair.