A nocturnal stroll through the moonlit landscape sounds like the backdrop to a horror story but Nightwalk is infact Chris Yates’s sensory journey into the natural world that surrounds him. The prospect of being enveloped by a foreboding forest leaves the reader, and occasionally the author confronting all their irrational fears of the dark.
Yet the author’s love for the countryside and lyrical writing style shines through and we are tentatively lead into a dream-like landscape where our imaginary fumblings leave us dependent on our senses to explore the forest using touch, sound, smell and memory as our mental compass.
While seemingly tip-toeing through the darkness the author’s acute ear for bird song enlivens forest, turning the potentially monotone into surround sound:
“A nightingale does not really sing, he chants, making a series of declamations in the manner of a thrush, though less stridently. In tones as cool and clear as springwater he voices elegies rather than halleluias.”
The nightwalk is given context and the occasional flashes of humour by Yates’s recollections of a childhood spent on the North Downs. Memorably we hear of a Sri Lankan snake charmer befriended by his father who inspired the aspiring naturalist to mimic this trance like noise, while on a walk, but only succeeded in producing a rabbit out of the metaphorical hat! However it is the timeless quality of nature and ultimately the language that captivates, as captured by the following description:
“The sight of a hare outrunning its shadow across a sunlit field could never be less than captivating but skylined by a field of stars it seems to loom right out of a dream, or a childhood vision.”
Nightwalk by Chris Yates
Publisher: Harper / Collins. Price: £14.99
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