Melissa Harrison at The Financial Times:
On retirement from the Natural History Museum, where he was senior palaeontologist, Richard Fortey used the proceeds of a television series to purchase a small beech wood in the Chilterns. It’s clearly kept him busy since then, for in The Wood For the Trees he presents not only an account of the wood’s long history but a year-long study of its biodiversity. For this he has called on the expertise of a lifetime’s-worth of friends and colleagues, who arrive with pooters, cherry-pickers and high-tech gear to help him understand absolutely everything about it. The wood may only be four acres, but it’s quite an undertaking.
Fortey is an award-winning science writer whose previous books include Trilobite!(2000), The Earth: An Intimate History (2004) and The Hidden Landscape: A Journey into the Geological Past (1993). He’s a regular on TV, too, recently exploring Hawaii, Madagascar and Madeira in stripy braces and Panama hat forNature’s Wonderlands: Islands of Evolution on BBC4. His style on the page mirrors that on the small screen: deeply knowledgeable, enthusiastic, avuncular and a little bit old-fashioned. Words such as “thrice”, “pace” and even “fain” dot his prose like relict trees among the newer growth — and are just as pleasing.
The Wood for the Trees opens in April as the bluebells are coming out and concludes at the end of March, taking in a year’s cycle in the wood. Fortey’s nature notes form the basis of each chapter, the larger story of the wood — its geological past and human history — told piecemeal as the book unfolds.