Book Review

Weanée Kimblewood

Sue Eden:
Living with Dormice.

Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: Papadakis (May 4, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1901092798
ISBN-13: 978-1901092790
Price: 17.50 EUR

Hidden Rodents in the Backyard

Hatter and Hare dunking Dormouse into a teapot (from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by English author Lewis Carroll).

They are invisible, but they are there – says Sue Eden, a retired plant taxonomist and self-taught rodent expert from Dorset, South-West England. She is talking of dormice, small rodents of the family Gliridae, particularly known for their long periods of hibernation. On the British Isles, only the hazel dormouse (Muscardinus avellanarius) is native (it is found in northern Europe and Asia Minor, too). Every British child knows the tiny animal from Lewis Carroll’s novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, where an anthropomorphic “Dormouse” is always falling asleep and awakening, used by the other protagonists as a cushion.

There’s more than a grain of truth in Carroll’s tale. Dormice really are cuddly and dozy little things, hibernating rolled up in a ball from October to April or May, with their furry tail wrapped around their body. However, as Sue Eden warns in her book Living with Dormice, there are a lot of legends to do with dormice. For example, the animal is said to be very rare, at least in England, usually living only in ancient woodland that contains a lot of essential environmental features.

Rubbish, affirms Eden, who regards many of these previous findings as false. “Much has been written about dormice in Britain over the last twenty years”, she states, “[but] my own work […] has uncovered a very different dormouse from that written about”. After eighteen years of living with Muscardinus in the garden, browsing through the countryside of Dorset and chatting with naturalists, landowners and many experts, Eden realised that dormice are widespread, plentiful, and anything but rare.

In her fair and beautifully illustrated book (most photos are taken by Eden herself), she does her best to describe her personal view of the animal and to familiarise the reader with it. Every aspect of dormouse life is described: what they eat (not just hazel kernels); where they live (nearly everywhere); who hunts them (owls, for example); how they can be protected by conservation; what their nests are like and how we can easily find them; hibernation; breeding; the construction of artificial nesting sites and many more aspects of this interesting mammal.

By quoting classical literature (“Stare a dormouse in the whiskers and you’re lost”), Eden encourages her readers to start looking for signs of dormice themselves and to have their own experiences with the cuddly creatures. Her handsome book is the perfect tool for those who are up for learning more about the mystical children’s literary characters.

Letzte Änderungen: 19.07.2013