The Man Who Ate the Zoo
Vintage, 400 pages, €13.99
Anybody who thinks the Victorians were all stuffy conservatives firmly stuck in their ways should read this book. It tells the story of Frank Buckland — one of the great eccentrics of the age — and how he came to interest an entire generation in exotic animals.
A trained surgeon, Buckland would go on to write hugely popular articles on natural history — he was very much the David Attenborough of his day. But it was his interest in the eating of especially exotic creatures from which most of his famed derived. In the name of science and in an effort to find the food to feed the hungry, he sampled giraffe, elephant, boa constrictor, rhino as well as a live frog. “He never,” Girling writes, “lost the capacity for wonder.”