Timothy, Or, Notes of an Abject Reptile

Front Cover
Knopf, 2006 - Fiction - 177 pages
55 Reviews

Few writers have attempted to explore the natural history of a particular animal by adopting the animal’s own sensibility. But Verlyn Klinkenborg—with his deeply empathetic relation to the world around him—has done just that, and done it brilliantly, in Timothy.
This is the story of a tortoise whose real life was observed by the eighteenth-century English curate Gilbert White, author of The Natural History of Selborne. For thirteen years, Timothy lived in White’s garden—making an occasional appearance in his journals. Now Klinkenborg gives the tortoise an unforgettable voice and powers of observation as keen as those of any bipedal naturalist. The happy result: Timothy regales us with an account of a gracefully paced (no unseemly hurry!) eight-day adventure outside the gate (“How do I escape from that nimble-tongued, fleet-footed race? . . . Walk through the holes in their attention”) and entertains us with shrewd observations about the curious habits and habitations of humanity. “To humans,” Timothy says with doleful understanding, “in and out are matters of life and death. Not to me. Warm earth waits just beneath me. . . . The humans’ own heat keeps them from sensing it.”
Wry and wise, unexpectedly moving, and enchanting at every—careful—turn, Timothy will surprise and delight readers of all ages.

From inside the book

What people are saying - Write a review

User ratings

5 stars
4 stars
3 stars
2 stars
1 star

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

This is a book that I will keep in my library. The words flow like music and are fun to read. The story is original speculative and informative. Seeing nature and mankind and the world through the eyes and thoughts of Timothy the tortoise creates perspective that I enjoyed greatly. I will go back and read many of the essays over and over.
The book is based on notes kept by Gilbert White a minister, and naturalist in 18th century Selborne, England. Is it poetry or prose? Who cares, it beautiful.

Review: Timothy, or Notes of an Abject Reptile

User Review  - Goodreads

Very nice quiet, beautifully written story on a Tortoise transported from Turkey to England who lived out its life first in a stone courtyard for 20 years and the rest in the garden of an Anglican minister and naturalist in England in the 1700's. Nice, calm, thoughtful reading. Read full review

All 3 reviews »


Section 1
Section 2
Section 3

4 other sections not shown

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2006)

Verlyn Klinkenborg is a member of the editorial board of The New York Times. His previous books include Making Hay, The Last Fine Time, and The Rural Life. He lives in upstate New York.

Bibliographic information