Book review: Dormice

Dormice by Pat Morris is one of the latest in the British Natural History publications from Whittet Books.

This second edition publication gives a fascinating insight into our much loved native hazel dormouse and its very much less popular cousin, the edible dormouse.

The life of a dormouse is explained in easy to understand text

The life of a dormouse is explained in easy to understand text

The author, Dr Pat Morris was the senior lecturer in zoology at Royal Holoway, University of London with over 50 years of research into various mammals including hedgehogs.

Right from the opening page this book is packed with masterful black and white illustrations by Guy Troughton.

Hazel and edible dormouse

Britain has two kinds of dormouse according to the author, and in this book he treats them as very separate creatures.

The native British dormouse often occurs among the hazel, hence being called the hazel dormouse. Often kept as pets by Victorian children it has become quite rare and little was known about it until recently.

At the other end of the cute scale is the edible dormouse is the thug of the forest which Mr Morris describes as  “Big. noisy, bad tempered and bites like hell.”

Once the introductions are complete, this easy to read and fascinating book explains all about the dormouse history, its lifecycle, feeding habbits and how to identify one from another.

An easy read

After only a few pages we found ourselves recounting facts and curiosities across the dinner table as we became familiar with a creature we possibly will never see.

This is one of those books that is a pleasure to read as a coffee table book or as the basis for a college or educational project.

Stuffed full of facts and observations we could easily see this book being used as source material for pub quizzes and natural history treasure trails.

Our estimated reading age would be around 12+. However, this paperback book is ideal for all ages and could even be used as a bedtime read for younger children interested in natural history.

Edible dormouse

Buzzing around in our heads as we read through the 144 page book was the question of how the edible dormouse got it’s name and could you eat it.

It seems that, according to page 98, in many countries in southern Europe the, ‘Spanish Rat’ as it was often called, did appear on menus.

During Roman times Mr Morris explains that the edible dormouse was actually bred for eating. However, no evidence seems to indicate this was done during the Roman occupation of Britain.

Special containers were used to help fatten up the mice which were ‘self basting’ when cooked. Yummy.

Further information

This fascinating and compelling book is available from Amazon , Whittet Books  other major book suppliers.

It has a recommended price of £9.99 and would be ideal as a gift or Christmas stocking filler.

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