The Book of Eels: Our Enduring Fascination with the Most Mysterious Creature in the Natural World

Patrik Svensson, trans. from the Swedish by Agnes Broome. Ecco, $28.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-06-296881-4
Svensson, a Swedish journalist, melds the personal and scientific in this captivating look at the European eel. He describes the fish’s intricate life cycle, as only recently uncovered by science: hatched as a tiny leaf-shaped larva in the Sargasso Sea, they grow into a fragile, transparent “glass eel” and are carried across the Gulf Stream to Europe, where they grow “serpentine and muscular” in streams and rivers, before an unknown instinct triggers them to travel back across the Atlantic to the Sargasso, where they reproduce and die. The puzzles surrounding the species—Svensson observes that their reproduction process is still mysterious—have long fascinated students of zoology, from Aristotle to Freud; the latter was obsessed as a teenager with finding the male’s sex organ, and failing to do so (Svensson speculates) may have led to him taking up psychoanalysis instead. Svensson alternates these scientific and historical passages with moving reminiscences of being taught to fish for eels by his father in a stream near their home, and with reflections on eels as a human food source and on current efforts to conserve them. Nature-loving readers will be enthralled by Svensson’s fascinating zoological odyssey. (June)
Reviewed on : 04/22/2020
Release date: 05/01/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 320 pages - 978-0-06-296883-8
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Audio book sample courtesy of HarperAudio
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