Once Upon a Raven's Nest

Once Upon a Raven's Nest : a life on Exmoor in an epoch of change

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Once Upon a Raven's Nest is an account of an epoch of change; of the earth and of a human life. It is the story of a working class man, one Thomas Hedley of Exmoor, and of the planet during the period of its great acceleration towards the current climate emergency.

Born in 1955 to a poor family in Devon Thomas refused to conform. His fierce independence, recklessness and contrariness led not only to scrapes and self-inflicted dangers but to a life enriched by the love of women. Catrina Davies came to know him in his last years and has given his life and times in his own words, creating a rich, pungent language in a knowing, poetic and poignant voice.

We learn of his accumulation of engines, tools and guns, the complexity of his connection to nature, the animals he loved and his desire to hunt them. He recounts the terrible consequences of his fatal attraction to risk and machinery which led to his being paralysed for the last years of his life, confined to a wheelchair, hopelessly dependent but still watching, noticing, recording, loving the world.

It's only when you add up all those small things that you get a sum so fraught with heartache you can't even start to reckon on how much you've lost.

The narrative is interwoven with a sequence of factual entries that chart the impending climate catastrophe and the consequences of our collective choices to ignore the warning of an environment on the verge of collapse.

In Davies's miraculous retelling of Thomas Hedley's life it is as if a world has been remembered rather than written. Once Upon A Raven's Nest is an unforgettable history of a life that is almost lost and an account of the destruction man has wrought on the earth in the time that Hedley worked the land.

(P) 2023 Quercus Edition Limited
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Product details

  • riverrun
  • United Kingdom
  • Unabridged
  • Unabridged edition
  • 1529425018
  • 9781529425017

Review quote

This is a rich, beautiful and deeply moving book. I read it in one sitting, then was sorry that I had not drawn it out for longer, as I enjoyed it so much. -- George Monbiot From the wonderfully evocative title to the heart-rending yet spirit-lifting conclusion, Catrina examines, with great empathic power, how colossal forces work on the individual. In one man, we are shown vast epochal change; in him, we see the concerns and defiance and activities that were once considered as solely the province of gods. A brilliant and necessary book. -- Niall Griffiths Stunning. Urgent. Unforgettable. Through this complex and loving portrait of a rural working man, Catrina Davies gives voice to all that has been lost and damaged in his lifetime, ours. She is a true successor to John Berger in writing with love and anger on behalf of threatened species and communities. -- Tanya Shadrick, author of The Cure for Sleep Once Upon a Raven's Nest is a genuinely captivating tale of rural-lore - told through the thrilling narrative of one man's life; a good ol' country boy, a right character whose scraps and scrapes litter the pages. Chainsaws and tractors and torn love affairs fill the book, as Tommy's story is laid bare in a series of episodes and fractured snapshots carefully scattered within a timescale of environmental decline. There is a tough, brutal beauty here in Davies' depiction of the ways of the British countryside but love, and delight and the best of humanity, too. -- James Canton Original and powerful, I loved this book. This is a beautiful, powerful and truly original book which is nature writing at it's truest and finest. -- Clover Stroud This has the unmistakable smell of a classic. Davies has restored my flagging faith in the ability of language to tell the unvarnished truth. Here's a book worthy of Exmoor ravens and rivers and of the big, bold, dignified story it tells. I have no higher praise. * Charles Foster, author of Cry of the Wild, Being a Human and Being a Beast * There is a raw energy here which is very appealing. Exmoor very rough and very ready. Pulses with life at every turn. Expertly told, the fragmentary collision Of lives and a planet, deer, salmon, trees, tractors and a chainsaw or two. Exmoor verbatim as you never seen it before. Outdoors means out doors. -- James Crowden
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About Catrina Davies

Catrina Davies was born in Snowdonia and grew up around Land's End, Cornwall. She has worked as a DJ, gardener, circus cellist, cleaner, TEFL teacher, dog walker, flower-picker, builder and waitress. She has also released two records. Her first book Fearless is a memoir about busking from Norway to Portugal. riverrun published Homesick in 2019 and it went on to be longlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize, Once Upon a Raven's Nest is her third book.
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