George Monbiot is never afraid to say what he thinks, and we should admire him for this, even when on occasion we disagree with him. And to be fair, as I read Feral I found much I both agreed with and admired. What first struck me – and this may come as a surprise to those who read his polemics in The Guardian – is how, when he is released from the need to make his point in a short and topical newspaper column, Monbiot reveals a surprisingly lyrical, even romantic, sensibility towards the natural world.
Having moved to rural Wales with his family, he has rediscovered a love of being immersed in nature – sometimes, as when his kayak capsized offshore, in a quite literal way. Feral contains passages of poetic beauty that rank with those of any of the current crop of nature writers – indeed he shows a welcome tendency actually to write about the wild creatures he sees, rather than treating them as bit-part players in a literary notion of ‘wilderness’, as some are inclined to do.
But what really marks Monbiot out as an important writer and thinker is that he does not simply write about nature