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 stellar, adventure-filled biography.” — Foreword Reviews, 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.
Available May 24, 2022. PRE-ORDER NOW!
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Merilyn Simonds is the author of 18 books, including the non-fiction classic The Convict Lover, Gutenberg’s Fingerprint, and most recently, the novel Refuge. The founder and first artistic director of the Kingston WritersFest, Simonds is an influential champion of writers and writing. She lives with writer and translator Wayne Grady and divides her time between Kingston, Ontario, and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
Published: May 2022
Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.5 in.
“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
“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
“Exhilarating. Louise de Kiriline Lawrence has found her ideal biographer in Merilyn Simonds. Woman, Watching is an inspiration and a joy.” — Candace Savage, author of The Wonder of Canadian Birds
“The accounts of Louise de Kiriline Lawrence’s unfathomable journey across war-torn Russia and hardships faced in pursuit of someone she loved is a story unto itself, but combined with her migration to a sparsely settled area north of Algonquin Park, and the challenges she encountered on the road to becoming one of Canada’s most respected ornithologists, make this an epic story. In Simonds’s hands, the passion, the struggle, the celebration, and the sheer beauty of Louise’s story leaps off the page.” — Ian Davidson, Director (Americas), BirdLife International
“Woman, Watching is an irresistible account of an extraordinary life. Louise de Kiriline Lawrence was a woman powered by passion, intellectual curiosity, and independence of mind; she paid attention during her time on the planet and left the world a richer, more storied place as a result. Merilyn Simonds returns the favour by honouring her subject in crystalline prose, applying an unfailing instinct for those details that allow meaningful ingress into another’s experience. This book is a gift. Get one for yourself and another for somebody you love.” — Alissa York, author of The Naturalist
“A stellar, adventure-filled biography.” — Foreword Reviews
“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. This portrait of a world rich with diversity, and the subsequent thinning of that fullness, moved me deeply.” — Kyo Maclear, author of Birds Art Life
“No ordinary biography, but an observational study as compassionate and clear-eyed as those undertaken by its subject — famed amateur ornithologist Louise de Kiriline Lawrence. Beautiful and powerful. Merilyn Simonds has written a remarkable book about a remarkable woman.” — Helen Humphreys, author of Field Study and The Evening Chorus
“Louise de Kiriline lived several lives, and this stirring biography brings all of them vividly to the page. In sharing de Kiriline’s passion for birds and concern for their survival, Simonds has created a life history that is a lens upon an entire network of women ornithologists.” — Trevor Herriot, naturalist, activist, and author of Grass, Sky, Song