Book Review: “Beatrix Potter” by Linda Lear

Full of inspiration for every writer pursuing a dream, Beatrix Potter will not disappoint.

Beatrix Potter – The Extraordinary Life of a Victorian Genius will have you gallivanting off to the Lake District as soon as you’re done, if not sooner. Including copies of handwritten letters from Beatrix herself, coloured reproductions of her famous drawings and photographs as well as an extensive table of contents, Linda Lear has breathed new life into the story that is the making of Beatrix Potter.

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Author Beatrix Potter outside of her home, Hill Top Farm

This biography reads easily and intriguingly as it offers “an exploration of the life and times of a woman who is a household name on several continents, but whose personal life and significant scientific and environmental accomplishments remain largely unknown”. Lear has given us so much more than that. The book not only paints the vivid picture of the curious female botanist and the later in life, large-scale conservationist, it delves into the challenges faced by a visionary who was so far ahead of her time.

At an impressive 500+ pages, we journey with Lear from Beatrix’s roots, exposures, transitions, experiments, discoveries and fantasies to her realities, losses, stories, partnerships, legacies, ventures, reflections and more in chapters of the same names. With snippets of Beatrix’s letters punctuating the book throughout, the reader gets a keen sense of her own character as well as those she created.

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Beatrix Potter's most famous creation - Peter Rabbit.

“The three ‘little books’, as they were now called, had changed both Frederick Warne & Co. (Potter’s publisher) and Beatrix Potter. Warne’s had found their answer… and acknowledged their happiness with the successful new writer on their list. And Beatrix had never been happier. Her work gave her satisfaction, and success gave her a new self-confidence. She had achieved what she had longed for -” It’s this supportive style that will have you backing Beatrix throughout every challenge and cheering her on as she overcomes every hurdle. It’s precisely this, our own investment in Beatrix as a character in her own story, that sets Lear’s biography apart from the rest.

As we pack our bags, pens and notepads and head to Lake Windemere, we leave you with this:

Imagination is the precursor to policy, the precondition to action. Imagination, like wonder, allows us to value something. Imagination allowed Beatrix Potter to value the natural world and to share the treasures she found…”