The Ravenmaster: My Life with the Ravens at the Tower of London
Christoher Skaife is a birdwatcher, a professional one. His job is to protect and care for the ravens strutting round the Tower of London, eleven large black birds with piercing eyes that fascinate, scare, and delight visitors at Her Majesty’s Royal Palace. As Ravenmaster, Skaife is no less appealing than his charges, and in this book, he tells about his years as Drum Major in the British Army and, after 24 years and studying history in college, he began his quest for a new career. He became a Yeoman Warder, known better as a Beefeater, a job that carries not only respect but a noble, distinctive uniform. After five years as a Warder, he was appointed Ravenmaster.
The present day ravens in his charge are successors of a tradition dating back centuries, though they were less known to the public until recently, when they began warranting daily descriptions to the crowds of tourists for whom they are a leading London attraction. Skaife identifies them by name and is familiar with their individual habits, diet, personalities, and moods. An occasional escape can precipitate a widespread search, as when Munin, one of Skaife’s favorites, flew along the River Thames and perched high up beyond reach at Greenwich, He admits he courted disaster by clutching a weather vane to offer her a snack to draw her down, forgetting he would swing round as the wind blew!
The book is highly entertaining but also informative, a serious study of bird lore, their biology, and the ravens’ place in legend and literature. All in all, The Ravenmaster is a highly satisfying read.
|Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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