Feb 17, 2008

Ring of Bright Water

by Gavin Maxwell

This book is a delightful, fascinating and sometimes sad story. Written by a reclusive naturalist who brought otters from the marshes of Southern Iraq to Northern Scotland where he lived with them in a remote location. The descriptions of the otters are wonderful and informative. It becomes obviously quite quickly that they make awful pets- they are extremely inquisitive, never at rest and very destructive to his home! But they're also funny and very endearing. Maxwell himself was so enthralled with otters that even after loosing his first one (due to an inability to control it) he acquired several others in succession. The sad thing about this book is that the author continued to bring wild animals from their native locations to keep, even though they made poor pets. He wasn't rescuing or rehabilitating them, he was acquiring them. I believe that's illegal now.

In spite of that, I do love this book for its wonderful nature writing- there are excellent and interesting descriptions of the Northern Scotland wilds and various other forms of wildlife that surrounded his home on the edge of the sea. Ring of Bright Water is full of humor and a wild beauty. There are several other books following it- The Rocks Remain and Raven, Seek Thy Brother... which I intend to get my hands on and read if I can. I think they're out of print and difficult to find now. I also spotted the title of a book on a shelf called The Saga of Ring of Bright Water: the Engima of Gavin Maxwell, which makes me think there's more to his story I don't know about. Perhaps I'll read that one also some day.

Rating: 4/5 Published:1960, pp 240


  1. The way you describe these books, the whole series sounds like fun!
    I will watch for them, in my travels.
    I think that otters are adorable creatures.
    Have you ever seen that one youtube clip of the otters floating on their backs, holding paws?
    They are SO in love.

  2. Yes! I have seen that YouTube clip. So funny. Great books, keep your eye out for them (hard to find in the US. They're not even in my local library, so I haven't been able to read more of the series yet).

  3. Ohhh, descriptions of the Northern Scotland wilds! Sounds wonderful! Except for the thing about trying to turn wild animals into pets, of course. But the book really sounds worthwhile despite that.

  4. Nymeth- it's very worth it. Maxwell is a great naturalist writer.


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