An Otter on the Aga by Rex Harper

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An Otter on the Aga by Rex Harper

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Category: Politics and Society
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: An inspirational book about the growth of an animal sanctuary with some wonderful stories about the animals and birds who were looked after over a period of more than forty years. You will laugh, you will cry but you won't forget the book.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304 Date: May 2007
Publisher: Headline Review
ISBN: 978-0755316274

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Rex Harper started his animal sanctuary in the Cornish countryside in the nineteen fifties. He'd been drawn to animals all his life and helping those who couldn't help themselves was just a natural extension of this. An Otter on the Aga is the story of how his sanctuary grew to become the RSPCA's designated rescue centre in Cornwall. On the way we meet some of the fifty thousand and more animals that he's rescued as well as some of the less-endearing humans who've caused them to be in that position. It's a story of love and selfless devotion told without conceit.

We meet an enormous variety of animals, from One-Eye the cat, left for dead after a road accident but eventually rehomed, Nell the collie, dragged along behind a car, who eventually brought her own puppies to the Harpers for them to look after, to Odin the mischievous raven who played tricks on people. There's an obvious love of the animals but it's grounded in professionalism and the knowledge that not every animal will make it and that sometimes hard decisions have to be made. Sentiment occasionally creeps in, but it's well-diluted with common sense.

Rex would not have turned away any animal, but I suspect his heart lies with the birds he's cared for. My heart is with dogs, but I wept when I read of some of his work with oiled sea birds. Many oil spillages at sea are accidental, but some are not. I hope the perpetrators are aware of the suffering they cause.

The stories are all told with love and humour, each just a few pages long and ideal whether you want to fill in a few moments or settle down for a longer read. I read it straight through in one sitting. The story follows a broadly chronological progression, interspersed with stories of the animals, including the eponymous Otter on the Aga. The young otter, close to death, was rescued from rising flood water and it was the gentle heat from the Aga which saved him. He went on to raise a family of his own. At the end of the book is some advice on keeping animals and if you're thinking of taking on a pet the book is probably worth the cover price for this alone.

This is a man who has, throughout his life, made his own opportunities. For decades his animal welfare work was done in what spare time he could find after doing a full time job as a postman, part-time jobs to earn extra money, bringing up a growing family and taking in foster children. Aided and abetted by his wife, Julie he's thrown his arms wide to the animals and people of Cornwall. He's saved animals, run a rescue centre and given numerous talks to the local community. He's now written a book which is a pleasure to read.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending this delightful book to Bookbag.

If this type of book appeals to you then you might also enjoy My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell.

Booklists.jpg An Otter on the Aga by Rex Harper is in the Top Ten Books For Your Auntie.

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Buy An Otter on the Aga by Rex Harper at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy An Otter on the Aga by Rex Harper at


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nikkicavanagh said:

I absolutely love this book and if i had children, i would pass this down to them and tell them to do the same. What a wonderful, refreshing, man, Rex is. I just wish I could shake his hand and thank him for everything he has done for the innocent victims that came into his care.

A delight.