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JOURNEYS IN THE WILD BY GAVIN THURSTON

We have gathered all the fantastic reviews our Book Club Members have sent us this month.

Click on each name to read the review. If you would like to become part of the Viking Book Club, sign up sign up here >>

REVIEWS

Caroline Wickham-Jones

Given the amount of horror stories it contains, this book is strangely compelling. It is a scary, enthralling, addictive, read. I found it hard to put down. It is the sort of book that makes you glad that someone else has done the travelling. I love travelling, and I have been to some wonderful places, but by Thurston’s standards I am a real softie. It is clear that Thurston is not just a skilful observer of animal behaviour. Over the years he has amassed some wonderful material on his fellow humans, and he tells it all in a sympathetic, highly readable manner. He manages to set the scene in a way that draws you in – I felt I was there with him. Beware, there are plane crashes, technical issues underwater, ant attacks, indescribable health issues (he manages to describe them), and many, many, near misses with scary predators. Thankfully he survives because not only does he bring us his wonderful record (visual as well as verbal), but he also brings us some moments of true beauty. I learnt a lot. I am not always a fan of travel writing because I often find it voyeuristic and that makes me uncomfortable. I will be recommending this, however. It is a sensitive account of a life on the road. It was perfect reading for lockdown, when I was stuck at home. It would be prefect reading anytime.

Roger Smith

Overall, Gavin Thurston’s book is an entertaining and informative description of the life of a wildlife cameraman. The story is told in a diary format covering his whole career and a multitude of assignments all around the world, highlighting the excitement, danger, thrill, length and sometimes boredom of the shoot. The perseverance needed to capture “the shot” is sometimes amazing and comes over well in the narrative. He also manages to convey his feelings of the special moments he experiences, often not captured on camera but just when he is alone in a remote environment. The book is split into several themed sections, within which the diary entries are ordered chronologically. This I feel is a slight weakness of the book, at the end of one section the diary entries are recent and then at the start of the next they jump back to early in his career. This approach makes it harder to follow his progression as a cameraman, how experiences from one trip influenced later trips, particularly as the technology improved during his career. A recommended read, particularly if you are travelling to one the regions mentioned in the book.

Heather Holgate

If anyone thought the life of a wildlife cameraman was a glamourous career to undertake, this book will make you think very differently. The text is richly annotated throughout. Written in eight section in diary form it gives a very incisive insight into Gavin Thurston’s world. From his first interest in taking pictures of his school friends, and setting up his own darkroom to filming in such remote and wild places from the Antarctic Peninsula to the Qinling Mountains in China. The anecdotes, and reports make this book not only interesting but entertaining and educational. His filming assignments although were not always of a wildlife nature and there is a tale of time spent at the Glastonbury Festival, of an amazing shot he managed to capture. The more I read the more I wanted to know what he would be filming next and in what hostile environment he would be in. One of the fist animals Gavin photographed was an Orca dolphin, and his last diary entry reflects back to that day, and how the world is vastly improving at protecting wildlife and their habitats.

Fiona Fletcher

This is not a book I would have usually chosen to read, but I have loved it. This book can be picked up a journey read then down for a couple of days before continuing onto Gavin's next journey. His experiences stayed with me for a while, escaped octopus in a car, antics with a witch doctor, overturned jeeps in Russia, active volcanoes in Hawaii. He certainly lives life to the full and some amazingly close shaves. It is absolutely amazing what goes on to set up a short film session in these remote spots and the work that goes into it. As the title says “The Secret Life of a Cameraman". Gavin has invited us into his world. Thank you for a good read and sharing your adventures.

Chris Purnell

Journeys in the Wild would not have been a usual choice for me at the bookshelf, however, once I had embarked on the journey, I was on it for the duration! This is Gavin's first book and there is enough content to have filled several sequels. The narrative is in diary form and very easy to pick up and put down without losing any of the excitement. From a borrowed camera as a child, he has risen to work with the very best of the world’s animal conservators and contributed to amazing television documentaries. Gavin’s love of animals and photography has taken him from some of the most beautiful countries in the world to some of the most dangerous. From armies of ants in Panama to elephants in Kenya, penguins in Antarctica to Caribou in Canada, Gavin has experienced it all, and rarely lost his sense of humour in the process. This book is titled as a journey, but is more of a fabulous adventure!

Lesley Hall

Journeys in the Wild is written by a cameraman who has created sequences for many of our best loved TV wildlife series (many fronted by David Attenborough), and gives a real insight into the difficulties and rewards of life behind the lens. It is written as a series of short anecdotes (ideal at bedtime) of experiences over nearly 40 years, starting from the days of film where you had to wait for the developing process (no instant review) and manual time lapse photography, to the automated digital age where camera traps capture novel animal activity and drones are used for aerial shots. The stories really drew me in, so that I felt that I was transported all over the world, from the North Pole to the deepest oceans, to share in the experiences of being tracked by wolves, hanging from trees in the Indonesian Jungle, meeting gorillas and being eaten by ants (nearly). I learnt of the incredible patience needed and not always rewarded, the hardships involved in living out in the wild, the separation from family, and also an insight into the damage man is doing to nature. I found it an enjoyable and engaging read.

Maggie Lishman

This is not a book I would normally read, living on a diet of crime novels, but a big thank you to Viking for asking me to review it. The book consists of diary extracts Gavin Thurston has made throughout his life as a wildlife photographer. It is divided into sections, each in chronological order, covering different aspects of his working life from dangerous assignments to amazing experiences. The fact he has been Sir David Attenborough’s cameraman for many of his amazing documentaries speaks for the quality of his work. The insight into the hardship endured to get the perfect footage is fascinating. Sitting in a tree for hours downwind of gorillas whilst been eaten alive by a variety of insect’s takes dedication. Or camping near the North Pole for days waiting to do the last hop by helicopter to the pole for the perfect introduction by Sir David to the Frozen Planet documentary. The first photograph he took was of an orca at Dudley Zoo in the West Midlands on a box brownie camera and by the end of his tale even a camera lens can cost thousands of pounds. It’s a lovely book to dip in and out of and, if you enjoy the Attenborough documentaries, an amazing insight into the planning and execution of those films. Definitely a good read.

Norman Trewren

I'm afraid it wasn't really for me. The little anecdotes were interesting, but they seem to jump around all over the place, both chronologically and in subject matter. Similarly, the reader is introduced to many colleagues, friends, etc - but only in passing, for there is little depth of the individual given. Disappointing.

Margaret Gaunt

A fascinating book with wonderful photographic showing the wife range of locations which Gavin Thurston went to on the expeditions with David Attenborough. Full of humour his descriptions of filming are informative as well as amusing. A wonderful book for the reader interested in wildlife in every continent of the world.

Peter Hughes

Enjoyed the book, very descriptive, made you wish you were there. Easy read, loved it. At first I did not think I would enjoy it as it is not the usual book l read, but once I started could not put it down.

Steve Ellis

As a predominantly armchair nature lover, I found this book absorbing, highly educational, amusing and on occasions distressing. Gavin has through his somewhat eclectic collection of travel diaries provided in graphic detail what it takes to be one of the leading nature photographers. Just like he has done on film, his book captures superbly the joy and wonderment that nature in all its forms provides. The book rightly highlights the constant negative pressure that humans bring to bear on our planet which has already caused huge impacts across all continents, eco-systems and species. Gavin’s book provides the reader with a unique insight as to how say a 20 second film clip might take weeks of hard work and meticulous planning. The technology may have been transformed over the last 40 years but to produce the results we see on our TV it still relies totally on incredible human endeavour and ingenuity. The book takes the reader literally to every corner of the world, from active volcanoes to the depths of the ocean, from the Congo jungle to the North Pole. In so doing it also provides a fascinating understanding as to the challenges a camera crew face physically getting to these spots and the risks they take en route and once they get to the film location. I can highly recommend this book.

Marinette Khan

As a family, we have always been great fans of David Attenborough. Not only did we enjoy his wonderful nature programmes but we also admired his team’s hard work behind the scenes. Therefore, reading this book was a real eye-opener. His enthusiasm and passion for wildlife expeditions are obvious from the fact that he would bid farewell to his family and join the team at very short notice. Having visited Cheng Du Panda Breeding Centre in China a few years ago, I was keen to learn more about wild pandas. I admire the centre’s huge project of breeding and caring for these beautiful creatures. Seeing them through the lens of a camera was truly amazing! Also, learning about rats in Karni Muta Temple, India (and David’s phobia) was most amusing. It would take far too long to mention every location; however, the Hawaii volcanoes were one of my favourite documentaries. I believe Ru’u O’o, the most active volcano, must be one of the most dangerous places in the world especially when it was filmed on the ridge of the crater before it erupted and the crew had to run for their lives! Such brave people!