Louise de Kiriline Lawrence and the Songbirds of Pimisi Bay
From award-winning author Merilyn Simonds, a remarkable biography of an extraordinary woman — a Swedish aristocrat who survived the Russian Revolution to become an internationally renowned naturalist, one of the first to track the mid-century decline of songbirds.
“[A] lyrical, passionate, and deeply researched portrait.” — Margaret Atwood
“This brilliant account does justice to a pioneering figure who merits wider recognition.” — Publishers Weekly, starred review
“[A] marvelous biography of a true pioneer of ornithology.” — Booklist, starred review
“Woman, Watching is an entrancing blend of biography, memoir, history, research, and homage that is unlike anything I’ve ever read. It’s radical, it’s ravishing.” — Kyo Maclear, author of Birds Art Life
Referred to as a Canadian Rachel Carson, Louise de Kiriline Lawrence lived and worked in an isolated log cabin near North Bay. After her husband was murdered by Bolsheviks, she refused her Swedish privilege and joined the Canadian Red Cross, visiting her northern Ontario patients by dogsled. When Elzire Dionne gave birth to five babies, Louise became nurse to the Dionne Quintuplets. Repulsed by the media circus, she retreated to her wilderness cabin, where she devoted herself to studying the birds that nested in her forest. Author of six books and scores of magazine stories, de Kiriline Lawrence and her “loghouse nest” became a Mecca for international ornithologists.
Lawrence was an old woman when Merilyn Simonds moved into the woods not far away. Their paths crossed, sparking Simonds’s lifelong interest. A dedicated birder, Simonds brings her own songbird experiences from Canadian nesting grounds and Mexican wintering grounds to this deeply researched, engaging portrait of a uniquely fascinating woman.
“Simonds’s prose shines and brings the reader into the remarkable moments bird-watchers live for. This brilliant account does justice to a pioneering figure who merits wider recognition.” — Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Simonds’ own birding and life story are woven into the narrative, adding to the addictive quality of this marvelous biography of a true pioneer of ornithology.” — Booklist starred review
“A stellar, adventure-filled biography.” — Foreword Reviews, starred review
“What a life! Louise de Kiriline Lawrence escaped the Russian Revolution, was nurse to the Dionne Quintuplets, then moved to a log cabin and became an iconic birder and friend of Simonds, who has written this lyrical, passionate, and deeply researched portrait.” — Margaret Atwood
“Simonds — an author of both fiction and nonfiction, including The Convict Lover — is a master of her craft, and that’s clearly reflected in Woman, Watching. Her prose is rich and sprawling, spinning an in-depth narrative out of de Kiriline Lawrence’s life. Stepping into this story is like entering its subject’s beloved forest: there is always another layer, another secret path, another living, breathing thing left to discover. Woman, Watching is a book for long summer twilights or cold winter nights — preferably spent at a cottage or by an old stone fireplace. It’s the kind of book you’ll dive into only to shake your head a few chapters later and wonder where the day has gone. As with the woods, a reader can get lost in there if they’re not careful.” — Quill & Quire