Review: The Land of Little Rain, by Mary Austin

Mary Austin wrote about nature, specifically in the American Southwest.  The Land of Little Rain is a collection of essays celebrating the California desert, an area many would consider a formidable, unforgiving landscape.  She brings it to life, describing the flora and fauna in minute detail.  Even Scavengers, an essay about buzzards, makes for fascinating reading as she shows how the birds help keep the desert clean — except, of course, from the litter left by careless humans.

This book was published in 1903, and Austin’s language takes some getting used to.  In the introduction, Terry Tempest Williams writes about recording these essays as an audiobook, and initially

missing her voice completely.  It was only in hearing the text out loud that I realized the era that held Mary Austin. It was a Victorian diction written through the perceptions of a radical spirit. Mary Austin wrote through the lace of her age. (p. xiv)

Reading this book piqued my interest in Mary Austin, en early feminist who worked tirelessly for Native American rights and what we now call “sustainability.”  I’m saving these essays for a re-read after I learn more about this fascinating woman.

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7 thoughts on “Review: The Land of Little Rain, by Mary Austin

    • Hello Kay, I recognize you from the LT Virago group! As it happens, I received this book in the 2010 Virago Secret Santa. I thought my Santa chose it because I’m a nature buff, but now I see it’s (also) because of the author.

  1. How fascinating, about both the author and the book – I’d never heard of either.

    Happy new year – I hope it’s one filled with good books.

  2. I picked this book up at a used book sale last year and it’s been sitting on my shelf. I will definitely move it to the top of my TBR pile! Thanks for the review.

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