Beautifully written and marvellously observed, "Capreol" is the story of a young buck deer growing up in the chalk hills and ash woods of the South Downs of England. Reminiscent in approach and imaginative insight of "Tarka the Otter" by the author’s own father, the novel succeeds – without a trace of sentimentality – in evoking the timeless world of nature in a manner that is totally convincing.
The book traces the drama of Capreol’s birth, life and violent death; his early explorations of the forest; the ancestral fears that haunt him; the fever of the rut; his encounters with a rival, One-Switch; and, in the background, the constant shadowy presence of two men, one who ruthlessly engineers the world of nature, the other who watches and remains in tune with his surroundings.
This is a book to be savoured as much for the strength of its central portrait as for its memorable set-piece episodes (the gassing of an old boar badger, the fury of a stubble fire) and for its descriptions of the unseen life behind the grasses and the leaves. In depicting the recurring patterns of the seasons the author reveals his own deep affinity with nature and his bitter distress at all blind, uncaring outside influences.
"Capreol" was first published in 1973 and has been out of print for many years; this e-book reprint has been long awaited.
Richard Williamson is the fifth child of the author Henry Williamson. Educated at schools in Worcestershire and Devon and self-educated in the local woods and fields, as well as in the marshlands of the North Norfolk coast, he joined the RAF on leaving school and wrote "The Dawn is My Brother" (Faber & Faber, 1959; e-book reprint 2015) out of his experiences. He joined the Nature Conservancy in 1963 and became warden of a nature reserve near Chichester in Sussex, where, now retired, he lives with his wife Anne.