The Forest

THE FOREST is the natural companion to SARUM. From the time of the Norman Conquest to the present day, the New Forest, which lies just south-east of Sarum on England's southern coast, has remained an almost mystical place, famous for its deer, ancient oaks, thatched cottages and forest ponies. It has also been known for smuggling, the building of great sailing ships, and witchcraft.

With their local customs little changed since medieval times, the Forest people - represented in the story by the Albions, the Tottons, the Prides, Puckles and Furzeys - have roots that go back to time immemorial.

The tale opens with the mysterious killing of William the Conqueror's son Rufus, and the story of a deer. Down the centuries, a Pride woman has a love child with a monk at the great local abbey of Beaulieu, the Forest folk prepare to meet the Spanish Armada, and tragedy strikes in the turbulent seventeenth century in a famous miscarriage of justice at evil Judge Jeffreys' Bloody Assizes. The feuds, loyalties, and passions of centuries climax in a scandal that shatters the decorous society of Bath in the days of Jane Austen, whose family lived beside the Forest. While the mighty Forest oaks are used to build ships for Nelson's navy, to protect England's shores against Napoleon, the nineteenth and twentieth centuries see another great battle, this time in Parliament, to protect the Forest's unique environmental heritage.

And through this echoing tale, the hidden side of the Forest emerges: the secrets of the huge smuggling business, the mysteries of local witchcraft, and the inner life of trees and animals. There is even a dragon.


REVIEWS

From the Daily Mail:
'Exerts a hypnotic charm'

From the Independent:
'Fresh, exciting and insightful'

From the Boston Globe:
'As entertaining as Sarum and Rutherfurd's other sweeping novel of British history, London.'

From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
'THE FOREST is Michener told with an English accent'

From the Seattle Times:
'Not all good things come in small packages. If you like books that are big, Edward Rutherfurd is your man. He writes wonderful sagas, tales that cover centuries, always keeping these long stories lively by telling us about the events and conflicts of people's lives. Rutherfurd does the painstaking research; the reader has all the fun.'

From the Kansas City Star:
'Many of the most memorable characters are women – Adela the Norman, bold in the face of injustice; her descendant Alice Albion, almost brave enough to defeat the hatred of the civil war; tough old Adelaide, so loyal to ancient grievances that she can't let her sweet niece Fanny take hold of love.'

From the News York Daily News:
'The novel covers 10 centuries, tracking a half-dozen or so families and their fates, their fortunes, and intrigues moving the stories along. But the trees have tales to tell, too. As fiction, it works like a charm. ...English majors will love this, and so will almost anyone else who starts page 1 and follows Puckle, Godwin Pride, Cola the Huntsman and their descendents along Rutherfurd's twisting road.'

From the New York Post:
'Engaging...A sprawling tome that combines fact with fiction and covers 900 years in the history of New Forest, a 100,000-acre woodland in southern England...Rutherfurd sketches the histories of six fictional families, ranging from aristocrats to peasants, who have lived in the forest for generations. ..But the real success is in how Rutherfurd paints his picture of the wooded enclave with images of treachery and violence, as well as magic and beauty.'

From Booklist:
'Rutherfurd follows the successful format he introduced and developed in his previous novels, Sarum (1987), Russka (1991), and London (1997). What he does is take a long sweep through the history of some location and personalize it by following the fortunes of certain families through the ages. His latest novel focuses on the New Forest, a region in southern England that has played a significant role in the country's history. The story opens in 1099, just before the death of King William II in the New Forest, shot in the eye by an arrow, either by accident or by design. Rutherfurd slowly builds the story up to the present day, charting, as has been his pattern in the previous books, the ups and downs of a few families as the epochs of English history wash over the sceptered isle and, in the process, documenting the political, social, economic, and ecological issues and the impact these issues have had on people's lives, common, noble, or royal. And since the author's focus is on the New Forest, even animals appear as characters!'

From Kirkus Reviews:
'Rutherfurd's episodic history of the Forest begins in 1099 with a romantic tale of Saxon-Norman enmity that climaxes with the assassination of King William "Rufus,'' then incorporates several lengthy stories in which local families' successive generations keep reappearing: in 1294, a love-struck monk fathers a young married woman's child; supporters of Queen Elizabeth's rival, Mary Queen of Scots, furtively prepare for the Armada deployed by Mary's Spanish supporters; haughty Alice Albion risks treason in a later age of violent political factionalism (in the longest chapter here, which also offers an intriguing characterization of "liberal'' monarch Charles II); and, in Georgian times, a Jane Austen inspired tale of social-climbing and arranged marriage is deftly balanced against a vigorous indictment of continuing commercial exploitation of the Forest's abundant resources. . . Rutherfurd has once again combined absorbing historical information with enviable narrative skill and a real gift for creating credible representative characters. Popular fiction at its best.'

From AudioFile:
'The least talented actor will modulate his voice in order to telegraph the sex of the character whose lines are being read, but Lynn Redgrave's performance here is extraordinary. Even the casual listener can tell a king from a subject, a virgin from a woman who has given herself in love. The recording quality is excellent, and Redgrave's skills bring the novel's large and varied cast to life. Edward Rutherfurd writes in the manner of James Michener's later work, setting fictional dramas in the sweep of historical fact. In this case, he uses England's New Forest to tell of that region's people, from William the Conqueror's ill-fated son, Rufus, to those of the present day. Lively history. Brilliantly enacted.'

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