BOOKS: The Flight of the Osprey

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 1996:

The Flight of the Osprey, by Ewan Clarkson. St. Martin’s Press (175 5th
Ave., New York, NY 10010), 1995. 192 pages. $19.95, hardcover.

Nicola Fray is widowed at age 37.
Her late husband, a botanist, taught respect
for all creatures. But when fishery owner
Martin Collier beds and subsequently weds
her, after much dithery coyness on her part,
she not only learns to live happily with his
fishing, but has her eyes “opened” to the
“scientific” virtues of hunting.


Nicola wonders why her first husband
didn’t tell her about this, since he must
have known about “scientific” culling.
“Perhaps he had thought it simpler to dismiss
[the ideas] than try to integrate them with his
philosophy.” Or, if you no longer agree with
him, belittle and dismiss him.
While Nicola drops her ideals along
with her knickers in fine Harlequin Romance
style, Iasgair the Osprey does his osprey
thing, eating, flying, mating, and migrating.
When he is hurt and falls into Nicola’s
temporary care, he becomes the maypole
around which Nicola and Martin do their tiresome
mating dance. Otherwise, his story and
theirs are pretty much mutually exclusive.
A fluffy little romance with an
osprey as a pivotal plot device is not objectionable
in itself. What offends is how easily
Nicola shifts her beliefs with little more than
her hormones to guide her. The message
seems to be that the way to treat paradox,
such as falling in love with someone whose
ethics differ from one’s own, is to pretend it
is intellectual epiphany that makes the differences
seem compatible.
Flight of the Osprey i n a d v e r t e n t l y
shows how our fixation on “moral consistency”
makes liars of us. Iasgair, with no such
investment in abstract moral issues, flies
serenely above all the pretentious nonsense.
––P.J. Kemp

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