Book review: Shetland Diaries by Simon King

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Best known as a presenter of the BBC’s Springwatch, Simon King has opened up his diaries and his heart to reveal a touching love affair.

Fortunately his wife Marguerite is sanguine about King’s passion, stoically enduring his long ‘absences’ as he enjoys the new love in his life.

So what is the apple of the wildlife expert’s eye?

The answer is the beautiful and breathtaking Shetlands, home to some of the most spectacular wildlife in the UK.

Animal world film-maker King spent a year on the Shetland Isles for the BBC recording and writing about the birds, animals and people who live there.

He was joined on expeditions by his wife and daughter who accompanied King as he dived in the sea and perched on cliffs in search of otters, orcas and puffins.

‘Shetland is a lot closer to the Arctic Circle than it is to London,’ he observes in this wonderful new book recording his adventures. ‘It’s on the same latitude as Alaska. It feels like a land apart, somewhere incredibly special.’

Long before he set foot on the islands, King fell in love with Shetland, an extraordinary northern wilderness where vast seabird colonies thrive and an array of wild and wonderful creatures make their home.

However, it was an intriguing encounter with a killer whale that compelled him to spend a year getting to know the place of his boyhood dreams for the BBC series.

With Marguerite, who has since come to share her husband’s all-consuming love for Shetland, and their three-year-old daughter Savannah, King experienced the North Sea-battered islands through the changing seasons and discovered the warmth of the community there.

Their journey, as we discover through King’s frank and revealing diaries, photographs and experiences, is filled with beauty, humour and occasional hardship.

Shetland is unpredictable, capricious and sometimes hostile but where once he visited the area, he reveals, he now ‘goes back’.

The islands that found their way into his bloodstream by reputation are now in his bones through rich experience.

An entertaining story told with affection and enthusiasm.

(Hodder, paperback, £8.99)