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Greenwood - Book Review

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by Emma Woodward (subscribe)
From her garret somewhere on the Bass Coast, Emma writes for WeekendNotes, travel publications, and plumbing websites of note. Read more at, or follow me on Instagram, @wordsfromawoodward
Published October 25th 2020
'Wood is time captured - A map'

Michael Christie's Greenwood spans the course of a little over a hundred years, following the fates of the Greenwood family and a cast of interconnected characters.

The novel is structured like the rings of a tree and rather than a chapter list, a beautiful illustration at the start of the book explains this. Starting at the outer bark or book cover, we travel in a layer to the most recent ring - the story of Jake Greenwood in 2038.

As you turn the pages and physically get closer to the centre of the book, the story journeys towards the heartwood as well and the reader traces their way back to the formation of a family tree.

This connection between a story and the tree-derived paper that it is printed on will be something that is explored thematically throughout the novel. The way that humans use, abuse and depend on trees is not just a casual idea presented by the author, it shapes and drives the story at every turn. Trees are the stuff of life for these characters.

The people in the novel are formed like trees as well. They are made twisted and brittle from hard years or strengthened by the buffeting winds of fate and fortune.

This is a tale of devastating forces. It is a story of fires, droughts, and cyclones, as well as hope and new life rising like seedlings amongst the damage and debris. Babies are found in the woods and people are cast like seeds on the wind. Many of them escape to the forests and seek trees for shelter.

Throughout the course of the novel, the idea is presented that a family is not really a single, straightforward tree, leading one character to question, "What if it's more like a forest? A collection of individuals pooling their resources through intertwined roots, sheltering one another from wind and weather and drought".

In Greenwood, family roots are intertwined and fates are mingled. People and places and trees form complex ecosystems of dependence. It is a beautiful meditation on how we relate to each other and our world.

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