Edward Rutherfurd is an author with a specialised genre all of his very own. He writes historical fiction which follows a place though the people who live there. ‘The Forest’ is a novel about the New Forest, as told though the stories of the families of Cola the Huntsman, The Prides, Furzeys, Grockletons, Puckles and so on from the founding of the Forest in William the Conquerors’s time, right down to the present day. From the killing of King Rufus (who died in the New Forest) though to the trial of Alice Lisle, down to the family politics of Jane Austin’s Bath, this is an epic tale which manages to wind together the past, present and future, pulling the reader slowly though the family trees and then swiftly though the fights, arguments and feuds of the families and the forest they have made their home.
If it has a fault, it is that the structure of the book (each chapter is a new generation, though not necessarily the generation after the one you last saw, and gaps of hundreds of years are not uncommon) lends itself to a slightly fractured plot-line, though Rutherfurd’s sense of narrative continuity means that the gaps between the stories are never too shear, or that a somewhat distanced narrative can occasionally make character motivations a mystery (Though this works both ways, it’s never obvious when a character’s mind is being opaqued deliberately), or a tendency towards slow movement as the setup for the new generation is explained.
The Forest is an excellent book by a master of narrative, but the structure might be a little strange and distracting to some readers. Nevertheless, it’s definitely worth reading especially if you have read, and enjoyed, previous works by the Author