Intensely personal and honest, brilliantly alight with the unaffected candour of its author’s personality – and his inborn literary skill – The Dawn is My Brother, first published in 1959, is a book of altogether uncommon quality. This e-book edition is newly illustrated with photographs from the author’s own collection.
It is a young man’s first book. But it could hardly be more unlike the first books of most young writers, for it is an infectiously cheerful book, brimming with enthusiasm for the countryside and the open air, for the world of trees and plants and animals, for rivers and sea and sky. Richard Williamson, son of the writer Henry Williamson, was brought up in the country: first on a remote Norfolk farm, then at a preparatory school in Worcestershire and later at a public school in Devon, where this autobiography begins. From his earliest days he has been a devoted birdwatcher and amateur botanist; and his memories of school and holidays are memories of fox cubs, of a first duck shoot, of hunting for buzzards, of moonlight bathing with otters for company. Service in the RAF took him a long way from the English countryside and his observations on Egypt, Jordan, Iraq and Cyprus are both vivid and original.
The Dawn is My Brother was runner-up for the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize in 1959, and well received by reviewers:
‘Nowhere in the publisher’s blurb is there any indication that here is the son of that master of countryside prose, Henry Williamson, trying his fledgling wings at sustained work, autobiographical, refreshing and heart-warming. . . . it is the book of a born writer who is destined to delight thousands of nature-lovers . . .’ (Books and Bookmen, August 1959)
‘He has the eye that makes experience vivid. He sees sharply every bird and every beast and creeping thing in the desert . . . and he is alert too to shades of human character and conduct. In a word, he is equipped to be a writer, and one who loves much that comes his way . . .’ (Country Life, 17 September 1959)
‘Although this is a first book, it reads like the work of a mature writer recalling events with the enthusiasm of Belloc, who provided the title.’ (Countryman, Autumn 1959)
‘It has its own charm and individuality; for though young Richard Williamson’s aptitudes and style not infrequently echo his father’s, the pleasure that he obviously takes in being alive and in writing about it is not imitative.’ (Glasgow Herald, 18 June 1959)