A Natural History of the Hedgerow: and ditches, dykes and dry stone walls by John Wright

John Wright is a naturalist and self-confessed forager.  He has written books in the River Cottage Handbook series on fungi and mushrooms, hedgerows and seashores – and booze.  He has now written a personal history of hedgerows, ditches, dykes and dry stone walls for Profile Books.  It is, quite simply, the most beautiful book I have seen in years.  From its dustjacket by Clare Curtis (redolent of Bawden and Ravilious) to the use of green for the title and chapter headings and the colour illustrations on nearly every page it engages and charms in equal measure.  The publishers claim that it is a “book to stuff into your pocket for country walks  in every season, or to savour in winter before a roaring fire”.  Indeed it is.  But it is also required reading before we lose the countryside it seeks to illuminate and celebrate.

John Wright  A Natural History of the Hedgerow: and ditches, dykes and dry stone walls
Hardback  £16.99  (384pp)

To order this book, please email vv@venetiavyvyan.com.

The Vanishing Man: In Pursuit of Velázquez by Laura Cumming

This biography is as much about a bookseller, John Snare, who in the 19th century discovered what he believed to be a lost portrait by the artist as it is about the painter Velázquez and his circle.  His efforts to get it authenticated and the battle he went through to keep it make it read almost like a novel.  It also has interesting things to say about the nature of portraiture and the artist, Spanish court life and the vanity of the young Charles I as Prince of Wales.  The publisher has taken great care with its production and there are no fewer than three sections of colour plates as well as black and white reproductions throughout the book.  The moving introduction, where the author describes her initiation to the painter’s work, is worth the price alone.

 Laura Cumming The Vanishing Man: In Pursuit of Velázquez
Hardback £18.99 (304pp)

To order this book, please email vv@venetiavyvyan.com

The Penguin Lessons by Tom Mitchell

No doubt about it, this is a love story of the best kind.  It is the true tale of one young man’s impulsive act – to save an oil damaged penguin he discovers whilst travelling in South America – who then refuses to leave him.  So our hero smuggles the bird back to the boarding school in Argentina where he is teaching and Juan Salvado becomes mascot, confidant and friend to all.  With an immediacy rare in travel writing, the book also gives a particularly vivid picture of Argentina post Perón.  I loved it.

Tom Mitchell       The Penguin Lessons
 Paperback  £7.99  (240pp)

To order this book, please email vv@venetiavyvyan.com.