My House of Sky: The Life of J.A. Baker by Hetty Saunders

“Astonishing power and originality.” John Gray

“Hetty Saunders has risen splendidly to the challenge” Clive Aslet

My House of Sky is the first biography of the acclaimed and enigmatic naturalist, J.A. Baker, author of ‘The Peregrine’. and ‘The Hill of Summer’. It’s an insightful biography, tracing how J. A. Baker’s troubled childhood, experiences of the Blitz as a teenager, and the social and environmental tensions of post-war Britain influenced his writing. The book also showcases some of the most compelling material of the J. A. Baker archive through the photography of Christopher Matthews a foreword by Robert Macfarlane  and an afterword by the ornithologist and conservationist John Fanshawe.

Watch an interview with Hetty Saunders

Read the foreword by Robert Macfarlane

Hardback | 225 x 15o mm | 256 pages

Frontispiece by Jo Sweating

Illustrated through in colour with photographs from the J. A. Baker archive


In stock


Hetty Saunders has been hooked on J. A. Baker ever since she first read The Peregrine. She grew up on an old hop farm in north Kent, and now lives and studies in Edinburgh. My House of Sky is her first book




Additional information

Weight600 g
Dimensions150 × 22 × 210 mm

2 reviews for My House of Sky: The Life of J.A. Baker by Hetty Saunders

  1. Graham Shackleton

    Such stories of literary recuperation are common. But there is something distinctive in the relation between text and author that has both shaped and sustained the ongoing Baker revival. In addition to the dearth of biographical information available when the book was bought back into print, much of The Peregrine’s intrigue stems from the startling presence of its narrator’s singular voice and the simultaneous absence of any concrete persona to identify it with. This uncanny centre is regularly cited as the book’s distinguishing feature, a mystery intensified by the rapt style that set The Peregrine apart from the forthright and fact-oriented world of naturalist non-fiction. If its “indefinable essence”, like that of Baker’s wilderness, exists in the space between watcher, raptor, and landscape, its emotional core is firmly rooted in the watcher’s camp: below the ever more vividly and violently imagined atrocities in the air is a sub-plot of the watcher’s own, unfulfilled longing “to be part of the outward life”, a desire to coincide with the anonymous, animal existence that resides “out there, on the edge of things”.

  2. Graham Shackleton

    “Wherever he goes, this winter, I will follow him,” John Alec Baker wrote in The Peregrine. “My pagan head shall sink into the winter land, and there be purified.” Narrated by a lone man searching for communion with wild peregrine falcons, the book has been celebrated as the “gold standard” of nature writing and provokes strong opinions: I’ve heard it dismissed as the ultimate summation of the white male gaze, and others have assured me fervently it’s the best book they’ve ever read, has changed their lives. Werner Herzog advises every would-be writer or filmmaker to learn it by heart. It will teach them, he says, the right way to see the world, with loneliness, human pathos, enthusiasm, ecstasy and rapture. Since its publication in 1967 it has influenced a whole generation of nature writers, and Baker, mysterious and little-known during his life, has become something of a cult.

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