Books in brief

Barbara Kiser
2016 Nature  
Heliotrope, gamboge, umber: the names of colours are as luscious as the hues themselves. Kassia St Clair serves up a chromatic buffet of the chemistry, history and cultural associations of 75 dyes, pigments and shades, including encapsulations of optics and colour theory. The gorgeous, malodorous Turkey red, for instance, was made in a "tortuous process involving rancid castor oil, ox blood and dung", and the Roman emperor Nero used a large emerald as "proto-sunglasses" while watching
more » ... al combat. Barbara Kiser Where Poppies Blow: The British Soldier, Nature, the Great War John Lewis-Stempel W&n (2016) For traumatized, trench-bound British soldiers caught up in the carnage of the First World War, birdwatching and botany offered solace. So reveals John Lewis-Stempel in this riveting study drawing on verse, letters and field notes by men who served, from zoologist Dene Fry to poet Edward Thomas. He shows how observing the nesting larks that twittered above 'no man's land' and natural cycles such as the seasons gave a sense of renewal, and how animal 'troops' were inspirationally loyal. A remarkable picture of a human bloodbath that took place amid phenomenally rich biodiversity.
doi:10.1038/539355a fatcat:tjoplzgrrnattddbtdfnim4b2q