Tell me about the last raven you saw. How close did you get? How much did you really see? In The Ravenmaster: My Life with the Ravens in the Tower of London (Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2018), Christopher Skaife enters the world of the raven, completely immersed in its awe and majesty. There’s a good bit of this book that just needs to speak for itself, and so I yield to his masterful narrative style.
“There’s a photograph of me as a young boy on a school trip to London. Trafalgar Square. We’d come up from Ken on the train for the day. It was a real treat—London Town! I’m kneeling, wearing flared trousers and sporting a bowl-cut hairstyle—this was the 1970s, after all—and I am concentrating on feeding the pigeons. You can see from the photo that I am completely and utterly absorbed. You can see the expression on my face, me thinking, what are those birds about?”
Bottom line: Many of us ask questions of nature, and more often than not it feels like we’re asking questions of ourselves. It’s this idea that on some basic level, what’s true of us is true of nature. The Ravenmaster does exactly this. It introduces us to a ruffle of greasy feathers—the call of the ravens from atop London—and makes us think about what it means to be human.
Matt is an award-winning independent journalist. His reporting has been featured in USA Today, The Washington Post, HuffPost, Vox, PBS, and NPR, among others.