9780375410376 / 0375410376

The Forest (Random House Large Print)


Publisher:Random House Large Print



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About the book:

When readers get into the game of comparing novelists (X writes very like Y, and so on), one writer who absolutely defies comparison with his peers is Edward Rutherford. With books such as Sarum and Russka, he created a genre that was virtually his own: the immensely researched, fascinatingly detailed epic narrative in which a sense of place was more profoundly established than in practically any other writer. This has been a hard act to follow and Rutherford has not been a prolific writer. Hopes were high for The Forest and this atmospheric tale of the New Forest is just as accomplished as Rutherford's earlier books.

Other writers have tackled the area before but this is surely the definitive chronicle, with all the stories and legends of the place woven into a narrative that has all the power and drama of Thomas Hardy filtered through a very modern sensibility. The elements that Rutherford comprehensively includes in his tale range from the savage forest laws of the Normans and their hunting pursuits to the founding of Beaulieu Abbey by the mercurial King John.

Rutherford inextricably involves us with his massive cast of adroitly realised characters, and we are taken along with them as they fear the threat of the Spanish Armada into the heart of this ancient domain, with its flocks of wild deer and horses. As before, Rutherford has the grandest ambitions for his arm-straining volume (coming in at 600 pages): from the novel's opening with a plane flying high above a cathedral in April 2000 to the 15th year of the reign of Queen Victoria, the reader is swept through a whole clutch of narratives involving the life and death struggles of the denizens of the New Forest. Certain characters stand out as particularly well drawn: the canny Brother Adam is a rare example of a virtuous man in literature who doesn't end up being simply bland and anodyne. But Rutherford is equally skilful at dealing with the violence of the Monmouth rebellion and his grasp of the shifting patterns of history has, if possible, deepened from his previous books. For those seeking the breadth and solidity of the great 19th-century novels, here is a latter-day work that will more than fit the bill. And who would have thought that the description of a fight between buck deer could be quite so vivid?

Her buck had hit firmer ground and his feet suddenly got a purchase on the grass. His hindquarters shivering, he dug in. She saw the shoulders rise and his neck bear down. And now the interloper was slipping on the wet leaves. Slowly, cautiously, their antlers locked, the two straining bucks began to turn. Now they were both on grass. Suddenly the interloper disengaged. He gave his head a twist. The jagged spike was aiming at the buck's eye. He lunged...
--Barry Forshaw

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