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The Secret Life Of Wombats
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As a teenager I lived near the Hawkesbury River. I remember reading an account by an early explorer who expressed amazement at the abundant fish and bird life on the river. Sitting in a dinghy trying to catch one lousy bream, I found this hard to believe. So to read in The Secret Life of Wombats of a teenage Peter Nicholson's adventures in the Victorian bush that `feral dogs, cats and foxes had not yet penetrated the wilderness and the vegetation was dense with marsupials', suddenly made the environmental catastrophe of the past 30 years very real to me. Yet, although Woodford's book has Australia's environmental history as its backdrop, it does not dwell on it. Nor does it try to be an overblown `narrative history' in the footsteps of Longitude et al. It makes no claims to be `whodunnit adventure about a discovery/object/animal etc that changed the world'. Instead it is full of endlessly diverting information about wombats. Did you know that the main defence of a wombat is to have a bum like a toilet brush? Almost as interesting as the wombats are the people who have devoted their lives to `wombating'. I'm trying to imagine how I would recommend this book. `Who would have thought that wombats had a secret life, let alone it being so interesting? And if you think the wombats are interesting you should read about the people who study them!' Richard Harling is manager of RMIT Bookshop. C. 2001 Thorpe-Bowker and contributors

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