book reviews / nature

Book Review: The Tree Where Man Was Born

The Tree Where Man Was Born (Classic, Nature, Penguin)The Tree Where Man Was Born

by Peter Matthiessen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

View all my book reviews

I bought this book before I knew who Peter Matthiessen was, namely, one of the greatest nature writers of all time. Because of the book’s title, I thought the author would tie present day East Africa to a by-gone era when man was primitive and evolving and nature ruled. I read the first one-hundred fifty pages and put it down for five years before returning to it. At that time, I was lost in my passion for the life and times of early man and not so interested in anything that rhymed with ‘present day’.

Then, after finishing that portion of my writing, I returned to what might be Matthiessen’s greatest nature book (well, there is Snow Leopard and At Play in the Fields of the Lord. Hard to decide). When I picked it up the second time, I couldn’t put it down. His descriptions of nature, the depth of understanding he voices for the people of the land, his vivid descriptions of what happens around him are like no one else. Here are a few of my favorites:Soon vegetation crowded the road, which was crossed at dusk by a band of bush-pig, neat-footed and burly, neck bristles erect, as if intent on punching holes right through the truck

  • Soft hills inset with outcrops of elephant-colored boulders rose beyond a bright stretch of blue river
  • Kamande Gatora is a contained person with the watchfulness of the near-blind; he had taken the Mau-Mau oath and been imprisoned, in the years after his mistress had gone home to Denmark, despite ‘the kind deeds I was receiving from her untold and the old life we stayed with her
  • Marsabit in June: great elephants and volcanoes, lark song and bright butterflies and far below, pale desert wastes that vanish in the sands.
  • By morning the wind was blowing up in sandstorms. Flights of sand grouse, seeking water, hurtled back and forth over the cracking palms, and a train of camels etched a slow crack into the desert to the south.
  • Inland, black boulders climb to far-off ridges that rise in turn to the Kulal Mountains, in Rendille Land.
  • …because the heat is dry and because the wind is never still for more than a few hours.
  • Since gnu are ever willing to stampede, the crossing is a hazard for the calves, and one morning of early winter more than six hundred drowned.
  • By late afternoon, when the predators become restless, raising their heads out of the grass to sniff the wind, those calves would already be running.

This only covers to pg. 127… Does it take your breath away?


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for five blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a weekly columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing TeachersCisco guest blog, IMS tech expert, and a monthly contributor to Today’s Author. In her free time, she is the editor of a K-8 technology curriculumK-8 keyboard curriculumK-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and creator of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

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6 thoughts on “Book Review: The Tree Where Man Was Born

  1. Pingback: New Colors and Twitters and Things » My Name is Connor

  2. Pingback: Book Review: Origin of Humankind | WordDreams...

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