Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Natural History of Unicorns by Chris Lavers (28/81)

Category: Non-Fiction

The idea of the unicorn has persisted for centuries, appearing in a number guises around the world. Here, Chris Laver attempts what may seem impossible, looking at the natural history of a creature that doesn’t actually exist.

Whilst our idea of a unicorn may not exist, there are real animals who have contributed to the legacy of the unicorn in one way or another, so the author examines possible candidates for having been the origin of the unicorn. He examines a number of other authorities on the subject (who knew so much research had already been done into unicorns!), to come up with some possible candidates for the inspiration for the unicorn.

The book then moves on to the use of the unicorn in the Bible and as a symbol in Judea-Christian religion and my favourite part, about the supposed healing qualities of their horns. There is also a really interesting section on the hunt for unicorns in Africa, and a rather disturbing section about an experiment to “create” a unicorn.

The only criticisms I have is that Chapter Six on the Khutu was rather too long for what it added and the final chapter begins with a mention of New Age and advertising, which is something I would have been interested in a chapter on, but which isn’t taken any further.

All in all this is a very well researched book with a lot of detailed information but the author writes in an accessible style with occasional flash of wit worthy of Bill Bryson.

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