Book review: The Flow by Amy-Jane Beer

A "dart of supernatural blue fire" - that is the description of a kingfisher in flight by Amy-Jane Beer in her new book.

"It is in my sight for the single gasp of a second and gone, but its electrifying passage has lit the day completely anew, and I laugh in awe and disbelief."

The Flow is not a bird book - it is a highly informative, entertaining, lyrical (and sometimes hard-headed) exploration of the significance of rivers in art, literature, science history, politics, scripture, mythology, folklore and more.

However, it is whenever her prose turns to matters avian that Beer's writing is at its most colourful and captivating.

For instance, she describes the sedge warbler as a "gangster warbler", with " bold head markings like those close-cropped hairstyles favoured by urban cool kids" and a "loud and abrasive song whose whistles and flutes are interspersed with chucking, curring, buzzing raps".

On her travels in Scotland, she hears an unfamiliar call "like pennies dropping into a piggy bank".

Then comes the identification.

Crested tits!

"Small feathery bombs of life with punky coifs and needle bills, moving incessantly in a sequence of dart, peer, probe, repeat".

In effect, a short poem - terrific writing!

The Flow - Rivers, Water and Wildness is published by Bloomsbury at £18.99.