An entomologist’s memoir about a life collecting hoverflies on the small island Runmarö near Stockholm, Sweden. The book is in part about collecting flies, but also chronicles the life of obscure naturalist René Malaise and the author’s journey tracking Malaise’s life and history.
The story often jumps from topic to topic, sometimes abruptly and with no clear connection, but is nevertheless a unique and fascinating story. Sjöberg’s voice is personal and sincere, and reads as though he’s talking directly to you. As an aspiring science writer myself, I paid particular attention to the scientific aspect of the book and found it a little lacking. Sjöberg describes his hoverfly catching in detail, but leaves the reader somewhat in the dark about the flies themselves; the flies are name-dropped but not entirely explained. This was a book I thought could really benefit from photos.
Another aspect of the book that non-Swedish readers should be aware of is that it frequently references Swedish culture and history. Sjöberg presupposes the reader’s knowledge of a few subjects.
In all, if you’re looking for a passive read this might not be the book for you—you can get so much more out of it by stopping to look up details along the way. But if you’re up for this task of taking it slow (which, by the way, is a subject that comes up in the book) then absolutely give it a try. You are guaranteed to feel relaxed and to learn something new.
Entertainment: 3 // Craft: 3 // Story: 3 // Science: 2