Summer – An Anthology for the Changing Seasons edited by Melissa Harrison


I am indebted to Alison Menzies Publicity for a copy of Summer – An Anthology for the Changing Seasons edited by Melissa Harrison in return for an honest review. Summer – An Anthology for the Changing Seasons was published by Elliott and Thompson in conjunction with the Wildlife Trusts on 19th May 2016.

Summer is the second of four titles known collectively as The Seasons and is available for purchase on Amazon and from Waterstones.

Summer – An Anthology for the Changing Seasons


Summer is a season of richness: gold against blue; sun dazzle on water; sweet fragrance, and the sound of insects, filling the air. We feel the sand between our toes, or the grass beneath our feet. In these long, warm days, languid and sensual, we reconnect with the natural world, revelling in light and scent and colour once more.

Capturing the high point of the year’s progress, Summer presents prose and poetry spanning eight hundred years. Featuring new contributions by Simon Barnes, Michael McCarthy and Esther Woolfson, classic extracts from the work of Charles Dickens, Mary Webb and Philip Larkin, and diverse new nature writing from across the UK, this vibrant and evocative collection will inspire you to go out and enjoy the pleasures of summer.

My Review of Summer – An Anthology for the Changing Seasons

I’ve been dipping in and out of this beautiful anthology for some time but didn’t want to post a review until I had read every entry. There are poems, extracts and essays spanning several centuries, so that there is something for every reader in this celebration of the season.

I might be biased as my favourite author, Thomas Hardy, is featured a couple of times as are other well known classical writers like George Elliott and Charles Dickens (with a piece I hadn’t previously read to my shame) as well as more modern writers like Benjamin Zephaniah, but I thought the eclectic mix of pieces was glorious.

However, I think the passages I enjoyed most were from writers I haven’t encountered before. I loved In An August Garden by Alison Brackenbury as she explores where those enormous spiders that appear at the end of summer actually come from. I found Jacqueline Bain’s piece on ‘the black, the drab and the furtive’ illustrated a side to summer we seldom consider. I hadn’t though about a stag farting either, but the 13th century anonymous piece means I’ll never look at deer in quite the same way again!

There’s a beauty to this book – from the glorious cover to the simple illustrations like that of the swallow that adorn the inside pages. The writings are all evocative, enlightening, entertaining or thought provoking. It was a relief to find Timothy, Reverend Gilbert White’s tortoise, had gained weight in the year since 1775 and I found Janet Willoner’s piece about the otter read like the most beautiful poetry even though it’s a prose piece.

Now I’ve read all the elements in this lovely book, I shall treasure it and return to it again and again in the future because, to steal from Jan Freedman’s quoting of David Attenborough, this book affords ‘an innate pleasure and delight and interest and curiosity in the natural world’.

Summer – An Anthology for the Changing Seasons would make a perfect gift for any lover of words or nature.

About the Editor Melissa Harrison

Melissa Harrison is a writer and nature lover whose first novel Clay (2013) won the Portsmouth First Fiction prize, was selected for Amazon’s ‘Rising Stars’ programme and  named by Ali Smith as a book of the year. Her second, At Hawthorn Time (2015), was shortlisted for the Costa Best Novel Award and chosen by the Telegraph as one of their Books of the Year; both books are as much about the natural world as they are about people. She writes the Nature Notebook in The Times and regularly speaks about conservation, literature, and the very fertile ground between the two.

You can follow Melissa Harrison on Twitter or visit her website.

9 thoughts on “Summer – An Anthology for the Changing Seasons edited by Melissa Harrison

  1. It is a glorious read, as was ‘Spring’. Whatever summer means to you, there will be some element of that in the various contributions. I loved ‘Threshing Day’ and the rain in “fat, fragrant smudges, which the beaten earth absorbed like blotting paper”. Appeals to the soil scientist in me! The reference to stooks to me back to my rural Lancashire childhood.

    Liked by 2 people

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