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Fact and fiction: Velvet's monthly pick of the local bookshelves

A Less Green and Pleasant Land: Our Threatened Wildlife by Norman Maclean, published in paperback by CUP, £14.99

This is both a kind of Domesday Book for wildlife, and a collection of anecdotes and observations of the nature of the UK and Ireland. Written by a giant in the world of environmental studies, it combines case studies and personal experiences to look at the past, present and future of conservation and the impact of human activity. It is a plea to the reader to notice, to take action and to care for the countryside.

velvet books (12948647)
velvet books (12948647)

In his foreword to the book, the naturalist and presenter Chris Packham points out its importance in making us wake up to the reality of the decline in species population and the dangers of over-celebrating successes in order to mask conservation failings: “I hope you will read, consider, mull over and mould all its ideas in your minds and then feel empowered and motivated to help move wildlife conservation in Britain and Ireland into a

new era – before it is too late.”

Reviewed by Alice Tranah, bookseller at Cambridge University Press Bookshop, 1 Trinity Street, Cambridge CB2 1SZ. Call (01223) 333333.

Expectation by Anna Hope, published in hardback by Doubleday, £12.99 – with £2 off at Heffers until August 31

‘What happened to the person you were supposed to become?’ asks my proof copy of Expectation. It’s a question that, in truth, probably floats at the back of most people’s heads, whether it’s acknowledged or not.

This book centres on the lives of Hannah, Cate and Lissa, who have been friends since their carefree days sharing a shabby but cheap-to-rent house overlooking a London park, and life required little more of them than drinking wine in the sun. Ten years on, they are now at very different points in life, both to each other and to where they thought they would be. Lives still somewhat entwined, now it’s marriage, careers, babies, not-babies. These sound like familiar, well-trodden themes but, Anna Hope has presented the reality of life for many modern women (and maybe men) in such an honest and often relatable way that, though it is a story, it often doesn’t feel that’s what you’re reading: the less-than-charitable thoughts friends might have about each other from time to time; the comparing of careers and how age can affect your prospects; the loss of potential; the missed opportunities; the shocking betrayals of trust that do occur and how through any and all of this, life goes on and takes you with it. I suspect anyone over 30 will find some ‘uh-huh’ moments – and this could easily be a one-sitting book (assuming time allows, what with the careers, marriages, babies, not-babies . . .).

velvet books (12948645)
velvet books (12948645)

Read Expectation then wonder: if you could see yourself as an adult through the eyes of your teen-aged self, what would you make of you now?

Reviewed by Kate Fleet, events and marketing manager at Heffers, 20 Trinity Street, Cambridge CB2 1TY.

Call (01223) 463200.

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