Book Review: Fen, Bog & Swamp by Annie Proulx

American writer Proulx is quite well known for her fiction, including works which have been made into films:  novel “The Shipping News” and short story “Brokeback Mountain.”  It’s a treat to read non-fiction written by such an accomplished writer.

The long subtitle to Fen, Bog & Swamp basically tells one what is addressed in its 172 pages.  It is written in general language, for the most part avoiding technical terminology, so it is quite accessible.  At the beginning of the book there are thumbnail definitions of “fen”, “bog” and “swamp” which I find myself returning to. 

Proulx relates fascinating information about wetlands in different parts of the globe; how, gently or not, humans have lived in these areas over time; and how we are slowly realizing how important wetlands are to the health of the planet.  She has done a great deal of reading and synthesizing of information.  The footnotes provide the sources of her information. 

There is some surprisingly good news :  “The struggles in Iraq to restore the Marsh Arabs’ five-thousand-year-old wetlands drained by Saddam Hussein in 1991 are slowly working.”  And some unsurprisingly bad news:  “The laborious and extremely frustrating efforts to repair Canada’s maimed tar sand peatlands are not yet working.” 

My one quibble with this gem of a book is that there is no index so it takes time to relocate references to things.  However, it’s a short book to skim and there are some helpful bolded subheadings like “Bog Bodies.”  Highly recommended!

Submitted by Aline Kouhi-Klemencic

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