The Undercliff: A Naturalist's Sketchbook of the Devon to Dorset Coast

Elaine Franks, Author, John Fowles, Foreword by Bulfinch Press $24.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-8212-1729-0
The Undercliff, an 800-acre region of collapsed coastline between Devon and Dorset in southwestern England, is home to myriad animals and plants, from the green tiger beetle (which ``ejects a jet of caustic liquid from its anus with explosive force which immediately vaporizes, looking like a small puff of smoke'') to the early purple orchid, which smells ``something like tom cat.'' Franks's field notes, printed in longhand, bring us a trove of facts illustrated by watercolor portraits and landscapes and black-and-white drawings. She goes nosing into early-blooming cottsfoot (yellow flowers ``at the top of strong, scaly stems''), remarks on moles (who ``carry their tails very upright--the small whiskers on the tail are very sensitive'' and each day consume half their body weight); scopes out the common lizard; and listens to the wren (``surely the noisiest bird in the Undercliff, even if it is one of the smallest''). By inviting us to share such good company, British artist Franks brings a rich natural habitat home even to the urbanite. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/30/1989
Release date: 05/01/1989
Genre: Nonfiction
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