John Lister-Kaye 2017. The Dun Cow Rib. A very natural childhood. Canongate: Edinburgh, 355 pp.

More childhood autobiography than natural history. Great writing and a well-conceived childhood memoir that is above all a record of the stumbling yet inevitable path that the author trod to become a professional natural historian. Along the way it is also a record of life in the Manor of a Scottish Laird, and yet another stake in the heart of the British private boarding school system, a system which nurtures not children, but bullies.

Also a compelling history of early heart surgery in the United Kingdom as the author, long after the event, reconstructs his mother’s medical journey and decline due to rheumatic fever and her surgery, successful for a time, thanks to a pioneering cardiologist and surgeon.

The final chapters recount the background to the tragic story of the final years of Gavin Maxwell’s life.