Chantal’s favourite book of the year, probably

Clicks and chatter disturb the cathedral hush. The air is so twilight-green she feels like she’s underwater. It rains particles – spore clouds, broken webs and mammal dander, skeletonized mites, bits of insect frass and bird feather… Everything climbs over everything else fighting for scraps of light. If she holds still too long, vines will overrun her.

I only say “probably” because the year isn’t done yet.

The Overstory by Richard Powers made this year’s Booker longlist. I suspect it won’t even make the shortlist, for the simple fact that I loved it, that the prose didn’t feel like limousine-tinted glass. There are no meanings hidden in here that only MA Lit alumni can tease out. From the first page, the intent is made plain. This is a book about trees. Every symbol is about trees. And isn’t the tree the earliest symbol there is, the mother-symbol?

Let me just bookmark my rapture a moment. Here’s a 502-page hardback that begins with eight different (human) lives. All but one of them wrapped themselves around me, and even the outsider brought me to tears on page 449.

The writing is clear and beautiful. The science is laudable. One character, a botanist (and my favourite of them all), writes a book that mirrors – in part – this world’s The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben. The trees invented internet long before we did. They learn. They are altruistic.

It’s a book about trees, and people who fall in love with trees, and people who die for trees, and people who kill trees. Heart-sundering. A feast of words and knowledge and story. A preemptive eulogy. Printed on dead tree, of course, haha (the botanist thought that was ironic too).

I borrowed it from the library, but I’m going to have to buy it – I will come back.

The fires will come, despite all efforts, the blight and windthrow and floods. Then the Earth will become another thing, and people will learn it all over again.


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