Watch "Woman, Watching” the video, directed and produced by my granddaughter Astrid Mohr, sound design and engineering by my son, Karl Kohr, written and narrated by me, Merilyn Simonds, based on the book Woman, Watching: Louise de Kiriline Lawrence and the Songbirds of Pimisi Bay.Watch the video »
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Read excerpt from Woman, Watching "This Gentle Art" on OpenBook »
Stepping into this story is like entering its subject’s beloved forest: there is always another layer, another secret path, another living, breathing thing left to discover. Woman, Watching is a book for long summer twilights or cold winter nights – preferably spent at a cottage or by an old stone fireplace. It’s the kind of book you’ll dive into only to shake your head a few chapters later and wonder where the day has gone.
- Anne Thériault, Quill & Quire
A biography that combines de Kiriline Lawrence’s life story with natural history, science, and memoir, becoming in the process a meditation on ways of thinking and being in the natural world...Simonds is a pioneer in the world of creative non-fiction and a wonderful match for her subject. She is a thoughtful writer who handles complexities with aplomb—with both insight and delicacy.
— Susan Crean, Literary Review of Canada
Nature and love resound throughout Woman, Watching…a well-written and loving tribute worthy of its subject. Ultimately, Louise’s story is a hopeful one. Yes, the natural world is diminished and diminishing, but the birds will never lose their ability to surprise and inspire.
—Joel Cherry, Blue Jay (Nature Saskatchewan), Summer 2022
Simonds is a pioneer in the world of creative non-fiction and a wonderful match for her subject. She is a thoughtful writer who handles complexities with aplomb—with both insight and delicacy. [Woman, Watching] is a biography that combines de Kiriline Lawrence’s life story with natural history, science, and memoir, becoming in the process a meditation on ways of thinking and being in the natural world.
– Susan Crean, Literary Review of Canada
Simonds’ own birding and life story are woven into the narrative, adding to the addictive quality of this marvelous biography of a true pioneer of ornithology.
– Booklist, starred review
Simonds’s prose shines and brings the reader into the remarkable moments bird-watchers live for. This brilliant account does justice to a pioneering figure who merits wider recognition.
– Publishers Weekly, starred review
A stellar, adventure-filled biography, Woman, Watching pays tribute to the indomitable, eccentric woman who once observed a red-eyed vireo for fourteen hours straight as it sang over twenty-two thousand songs. Simonds was Lawrence’s friend and neighbor during her later years on Pimisi Bay, and her own forays into birding appear in the book, together with recollections of sweet times with her mentor and friend
– Foreword, starred review
“What a life! Louise de Kiriline Lawrence escaped the Russian Revolution, was nurse to the Dionne Quintuplets, then moved to a log cabin and became an iconic birder and friend of Merilyn Simonds, who has written this lyrical, passionate, and deeply researched portrait.”
– Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale, Wilderness Tips, and For the Birds, Twitter, December 3, 2021
“Woman, Watching is an entrancing blend of biography, memoir, history, research and homage that is unlike anything I’ve ever read. It’s radical, it’s ravishing. This portrait of a world rich with diversity, and the subsequent thinning of that fullness, moved me deeply.”
– Kyo Maclear, author of Birds, Art, Life.
“No ordinary biography, but an observational study as compassionate and clear-eyed as those undertaken by its subject, famed amateur ornithologist Louise de Kiriline Lawrence. Beautiful and powerful.”
– Helen Humphreys, author of Field Study and The Evening Chorus .
“Simonds beautifully weaves together Louise de Kiriline Lawrence’s evolving relationship with people, nature, and birds, and the awakening in her of a sixth sense—the nature “sense”—sharing with us the passion, inquisitiveness, and indomitable drive that forged one of Canada’s, and perhaps North America’s, greatest naturalists.”
– Ian Davidson, Director (Americas), BirdLife International.
“In sharing de Kiriline’s passion for birds and concern for their survival, Simonds has created a life history that is a lens upon an entire network of women ornithologists. ”
– Trevor Herriot, naturalist, activist, & author of Grass, Sky, Song.
“Louise de Kiriline Lawrence paid attention and left the world a richer, more storied place. Merilyn Simonds returns the favour by honouring her subject in crystalline prose. This book is a gift. Get one for yourself and another for somebody you love.”
– Alissa York, author of The Naturalist.
“A truly exceptional book. It is no small feat to have captured our special friend as accurately as you have done, and in each and every chapter. As I turn the pages, it is as though I can hear her distinctive voice and savour once more Louise’s unique manner of speaking. Thanks to you and your exceptional book she does indeed live on.”