Chris Lavers - The Natural History of Unicorns (3 stars)

Chris Lavers - The Natural History of Unicorns



Guess what? Unicorns never existed. And if you can bounce back from this early blow, Chris Lavers’ exploration of the unicorn myth actually makes for a strangely charming read. In arguing that although the soft white creature of our dreams isn’t real, some of its character traits can be found in existing species, Lavers creates an unusual scholarly hybrid. At once sociological, zoological, geographical and self-critical, this history makes for a hazy work of non-fiction.

As interested in the history of natural history scholarship as the beast itself, Lavers journeys through the unicorn’s changing status as icon and symbol, as well as introducing the explorers and scientists who sought its existence. Dense in parts, the theory-heavy text is lifted only by the author’s wicked sense of humour and self-deprecating jokes, while the glaring historical discrepancies and the odd anecdote about 19th century khaki-wearing toffs remain welcome peculiarities. A natural history that ultimately leaves you chasing your tail.

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