Monday 14 August 2017
Gossip from the Forest by Sara Maitland
Subtitled 'The Tangled Roots of Our Forests and Fairytales' this is a mix of reports of walks in forests and woodlands around the UK alongside retellings of fairytales with their sources in woodlands.
This book appeals to me not only because I love forests, but also because several of the forests featured here (Airyolland Wood, The Purgatory Wood, Glenlee and Knockman Wood) are to be found in Dumfries and Galloway, where Maitland lives and which is co-incidentally one of my favourite holiday destinations!
Maitland has a keen interest in not only the natural history of the forests, but also their cultural history, the way that humans have shaped the woods and vice versa and the way that stories have grown out of these same woods. She contemplates how different types of stories arise from different types of woodlands and the connections between stories and forests and critiques our current cultural relationship with wild places:
'Stories and woodland are alike in a particular way - they are specific.... Stories and woods are actual not abstract.... To know about woods you have to go into woods. So if we want healthy children in healthy forests we need to get the children out into the forests, and to do that we need to see the forests as friendly, generous places.....'
The retellings of the fairytales are engaging and refreshingly new, making this a real treasure trove of a book for anyone interested in how our landscape and culture interact.
Gossip from the Forest by Sara Maitland published by Granta Books and printed on paper 'from responsible sources'