12 November 2012

Review: Carnivorous Nights by Margaret Mittelbach

Carnivorous Nights by Margaret Mittelbach

Published: 5 April 2005 by Villard

Pages: 336 (paperback)

Genre/s: Non-Fiction, Nature

Source: Own library

Check it Out: Goodreads ~ Amazon ~ Amazon UK ~ The Book Depository


Packing an off-kilter sense of humor and keen scientific minds, Margaret Mittelbach and Michael Crewdson, along with renowned artist Alexis Rockman, take off on a postmodern safari. Their mission? Tracking down the elusive Tasmanian tiger. Tragically, this mysterious, striped predator was hunted into extinction in the early part of the twentieth century. Or was it? 

Journeying first to the Australian mainland and then south to the wild island of Tasmania, these young naturalists brave a series of bizarre misadventures and uproarious wildlife encounters in their obsessive search for the long-lost beast. Filled with Rockman’s stunning drawings of flora and fauna originally crafted from river mud, wombat scat, and even the artist’s own blood, Carnivorous Nights is a hip and hilarious account of an unhinged safari, as well as a fascinating portrayal of a wildly unique part of the world.

My Thoughts

As soon as I saw the cover of this book, I knew I had to read it - as a native Tasmanian I love reading books that have a familiar setting as they are sadly few and far between.  Add the bonus of finding out more about one of Tasmania's icons, the Tasmanian Tiger and I was really looking forward to this.

Strangely, the book is written in first person plural - which wouldn't have been so bad but for the references to things that 'we' did such as 'we dreamed'  and 'we imagined'.  In fact, it's so vague that it's only by doing some research outside the book that I managed to find out who the 'we' actually were.  Unfortunately this strange narrative wasn't the only issue I had - the other characters were actually quite wanky - their jokes and attempts at being clever were quite flat, and their idea that they would actually 'rediscover' a species that vanished nearly 80 years ago in a few short weeks was just plain weird   Sure, I understand that they wanted to be positive, but it was just a bit too much.

What I did enjoy was the investigation into Tasmanian wildlife, the story of the demise of the Tasmanian Tiger and the very Tasmanian people that they met along the way.  The author did an excellent job of portraying truthfully the openness and strange habits of the people of Tasmania, without being condescending.  The book also contains pictures created by Alexis, which he made with various organic materials he picked up along the way which was an added bonus.

Although this book had some faults, and did start to drag a little in the middle, I think what made it for me was the familiarity of the places, the people, and the overall relaxed atmosphere of Tasmania.  I think it would also make an interesting read for non-natives - after all, where else in the world would you find an animal with a duck bill, that lives underwater, lays eggs in it's pouch and has poisonous spurs on its hind legs, for which there is no anti-venom?


  1. The narrative in this one does sound weird. It's never good when you have to go to outside sources to find out exactly what's going on because the author didn't manage to convey the answers with the writing alone. I do like the idea of the setting for this one, though it does sound like it ended up being a bit rushed. Great review!

    1. It was so strange...and then when I noticed it, it really started to grate on me.

  2. Okay, based on the subject matter of this book, I HAVE to recommend the movie "The Hunter" with Willem Dafoe. It's based off a similar premise, where a guy goes hunting for the Tasmanian Tiger, only instead of being somewhat comical, it's thrilling and dramatic and functions as a character study into the Tasmanian way of life. Completely underrated and SOOOOO good. You have to watch it and let me know what you think!

    1. Right, I'm definitely going to try and track that one down. I love anything set in Tasmania!

  3. Oh man, I remember watching a documentary on the extinction of the tasmanian tiger and it was SO SAD, because they were so cute. :(

    There were characters? Odd. I don't think I could read this, but I'm glad you had fun and got to branch out!

    1. Very strange, and it could have been so much more interesting if they didn't piss me off quite so much.



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