The Butterfly Isles : A Summer in Search of Our Emperors and Admirals, Paperback Book

The Butterfly Isles : A Summer in Search of Our Emperors and Admirals Paperback

4.5 out of 5 (2 ratings)


Butterflies animate our summers but the 59 species found in the British Isles can be surprisingly elusive.

Some bask unseen at the top of trees in London parks; others lurk at the bottom of damp bogs in Scotland.

A few survive for months while other ephemeral creatures only fly for three days.

Several are virtually extinct. This bewitching book charts Patrick Barkham's quest to find each of them - from the Adonis Blue to the Dingy Skipper - in one unforgettable summer. Barkham brings alive the extraordinary physical beauty and amusingly diverse character of our butterflies.

He witnesses a swarming invasion of Painted Ladies, experiences the curse of the Purple Emperor, makes a euphoric sighting of an exceedingly rare migrant and as summer draws to a close, suffers from butterfly burnout.

He meets some deeply knowledgeable and eccentric butterfly obsessives and reconnects with lovely, overlooked corners of our countryside.

As he goes, he looks back at the butterfly collectors of the past and ahead to a future in which many of our butterflies will struggle to survive on an overcrowded and overheating island. Wry, attentive, full of infectious delight and curiosity, written with a beautifully light touch, The Butterfly Isles will become a classic of British nature writing.




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Review by

This is the completely beguiling story of the author's determination to see all 59 species of butterfly native to Britain in the course of one summer. His love for these creatures is very apparent throughout, and the depth of knowledge which is so obviously possesses is very lightly worn. I learned more about our butterflies while reading this book than I did in several decades of living among them! The personal story interwoven with the naturalist's quest is engaging too; his love for his father, who gave him his interest in butterflies, is a steady theme; and for his mother, who helps him tick off seven species in one day. But the relationship with his long-suffering girlfriend is the one that teaches him that butterflies are perhaps not the most important things in his life. I loved this book; I read it in a weekend and it's been on my kitchen worktop ever since. I'll read it again before long, I’m sure.

Review by

This is an absolutely delightful book. The author describes the British countryside with a genuine fondness and his passion for butterflies shines through. I would heartily recommend this book to both butterfly lovers and to those with just a passing interest.

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