From the moment she hears Lev’s violin for the first time, Helena Attlee is captivated. She is told that it is an Italian instrument, named after its former Russian owner. Eager to discover all she can about its ancestry, and the stories contained within its delicate wooden body, she sets out for its birthplace, Cremona, once the hometown of famous luthier Antonio Stradivari. This is the beginning of a beguiling journey whose end she could never have anticipated.
‘Birdsong in a Time of Silence’ is the story of a man rediscovering his passion for birdsong and nature. Narrated against the backdrop of the current pandemic, the book opens by acknowledging the new awareness of birds and birdsong that was made possible by the coincidence of spring and the experience of lockdown. Starting with a portrait of the blackbird – most prominent and articulate of the early spring singers – the book proceeds through ten chapters to explore how birds sing, the variety of singing birds (including the arrival of summer migrants), the science behind their choice of song and nest-sites, and the varied meanings that people have brought to and taken from birdsong – ultimately demonstrating that natural history and human history cannot be separated. In closing, the book reflects on the collective reawakening brought on by this strangest of springs.
Born on the wrong side of the Berlin Wall, as a child Judith Schalansky could travel only through the pages of an atlas. Now she has created her own, taking us across the oceans of the world to fifty remote islands.