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The Forest Another intriguing novel by Edward Rutherfurd Through the eyes of the ancient forest near Bath Rutherfurd takes us through the generations exploring the great conflicts in English history such as Norman vs Saxon Merchant vs Nobleman Catholic vs Protestant Royalist vs Cromwellian and Industrialist vs ConservationistHe does this through sympathetically tracing the lives people down the generations of seven families The Albions the Martells the Prides the Seagulls the Puckles the Furzeys and the GrockletonsWe read about waxing and waning fortunes and about ongoing family feuds but always the main interest is through the people themselves of who's trials and tribulations we read about The experiences of a young Norman noblewoman Adela De La Roche in 'The Hunt' the Monk Brother Adam struggling with the love of a woman Mary Furzey in Beuleau The tragic tale of Alice Lisle caught up in the political turbulence of the 17 th Century England of the Stuarts and Cromwell in Alice and the pain and redemption of the young lady Fanny Albion in 'Albion Park'Always to the backdrop of The Forest and its varied life it celebrates nature and the irrepressible strength of humanity It is rare when I read a book that I wish for it to end for other reasons that I want to find out what happens to the characters I have come to know and like This book however I just wished to end so I could get it over with and move on to something betterThe book is composed of several short stories taking place in and around the New Forrest telling stories about the people living there and following various families as they evolve through the span of the novel some 900 yearsThis idea is good and the amount of research gone into this book is staggering But what is lacking is the execution The book doesn't read well It is written well enough but the characters are flat and one dimensional and their actions and thoughts don't always make sense They sometimes break character in a way that isn't plausible Adding to that is the fact that the stories are for the most part not very interesting they are supposed to be used to tell the story of the New Forest I think but Rutherford doesn't really succeed in creating great small stories about life in the various times or creating a grand story about the forest It all just fall flat and becomes uninteresting and for a novel of 800 pages you really expect Individual review of each story belowThe Rufus Stone The ForestThis is sort of a frame around the rest of the book and begins and ends it We follow a young woman a Pride as she is investigating the forest and figuring out how to make a television program about it and discovers that she herself has roots in the forestThe HuntThe first part of this book takes place in 1099 and features two parallel stories One about a young deer and her search for her first mate and the other larger part about a young Norman woman Adela and her search for a proper husband The two stories intertwine when Adela saves the deer from being killed by a hunting party Otherwise it's a rather simple story about how Adela are pretty much on her own except for a cousin and how in her search for a husband she falls in love with one man and hears rumours about an assassination attempt on the king William RufusI didn't care much about this story it was not very interesting too simple and the plot was too straightforward without any twistsBeaulieuThis second story begins in 1294 A young man a lay brother in the monastery Beaulieu accidentally hits another monk and thinking he has killed him flees and goes into hiding The young man is Luke Pride and the entire Pride clan gets into a fight with the Furzey clan because John Pride has a pony that Tom Furzey claims belong to him This put Mary Luke and John's sister and Tom's wife in an akward position and causes a lot of trouble between Mary and Tom One day the monk brother Adam helps Mary after Tom hits her and the monk and Mary start an affair But such things are hard to conceal in the forrestThis was a better story than the first one I actually cared about what happened to the characters in this oneLymingtonIn 1480 we follow two young boys living in Lymington The two boys are friends even though they come from different social classes It must have been exciting to have been a boy back then they go dragon hunting and are aboard a ship taking part in a race But than anything this is a story of the relationship between fathers and sons especially between Jonathan Totton and his father who are alone with each other after the mother died and are having problems with finding the right way to communicate with each otherAgain an okay story but I don't know if it's just my not being fan of short stories that makes me feel that each of these stories are too simple and too short to really get you to care for the charactersBut I liked the little fact that if a ship was wrecked often than not nobody survived because the cargo belonged to whoever found it as long as there were no survivorsThe Armada TreeThis fourth story takes place in 1587 a time of religious trouble in England Because of Henry VII England is no longer a part of the Catholic church but some of the English people still want to be One of these is Clement Albion's mother a devout Catholic woman Her daughter is maried to a Spanish man and she works hard to make sure the Spanish will attack England and bring it back to the Catholic Church One of her ways of doing this is promising that when the Spanish attack Clement will support them along with the men he commands as being in charge of part of the English defense Clement is having trouble deciding which cause to support so he strings both sides along He seems rather weak minded in some ways but towards the end of the story he takes a rather drastic decision a decision that seemed rather out of character This ruined the story somewhat for meAliceThis story takes place from 1635 to 1685 before during and after the reign of Cromwell It follows Alice Albion from a young age to her death Because of her husband she becomes a regicide a person supporting the execution of King Charles I and it follows her life as such and what happens during Cromwell and after he dies I didn't know they dug him up and hanged him posthumously and a new king takes the throne Also her life as a mother and a wife and as a part of the Forest with both suporters and adversaries surrounding herThe most interesting part of this story was the portrayal of the English society at that time I remember reading about Cromwell in Children of the New Forrest when I was a child and I find this period very interesting and must admit that I know too little about itThis is the second longest story in the book but because it covers fifty years it still feels to short and I didn't really feel that I got under Alice's skin I didn't really get to know her This story could possible have made into a novel and through one person's life have shown the transformation of the English society in these 50 years As it stands here it only touch the surface unfortunatelyAlbion ParkThis the longest of the stories takes place 1794 1804 and has two stories mainly Firstly we follow Fanny Alice Albion's great grand daughter and her life with her old father and aunt and her search for a suitable husband We also follows the Grockletons He is working as a Customs officer and trying to stop the vast smuggling going on at this period of English history and she's working on making it in society in LymingtonAgain the characters don't work For instance at one point Fanny who is a well behaved and decent young woman promises that she will not speak with a certain gentleman and she keeps her word but when the person she promised it too dies she just breaks it without a second thought and she just doesn't strike me as the type of person who would do that It's not in characterAnother thing that doesn't work is that when in the end we find out who's behind the smuggling it's not really directly stated but hinted at but the author can't just let it be with the hinting He sort of explicitly tells us that he is hinting at something And to me the revelation destroyed part of the earlier book When an author tells us what people think it seems strange that they don't even themselves seem to be aware of what they have done and are doing before the author sees it fit to tell the reader To me he sometimes becomes too clever for his own good and thereby destroys the realism of his characters and the value of the storyPride of the ForestThis final story is about saving the forest and making sure it's kept for future generations as a place of beauty and historical importanceIt takes place from 1868 to 1925 and is also the story of a new era an era of cars and trains and the like The format of this book is like all of Rutherford's others historical fiction This story takes place in a location that is very near Sarum the subject of his int'l best selling breakout book but its emphasis is much different the focus is on how the forest in this area affects the people that live there and vice versa You get wafts of the big events eg ueen Elizabeth and her Golden Age the Spanish inuisition but everyday details concern how deers and oak trees mature I love Rutherford's books I always learn something and although the characters change in each chapter there's aspects of each one that I can connect with as a reader I don't think this is Rutherford's best book hence the 4 stars but it was good enough to compel me to read London sometime soon The Forest stars England's New Forest over a thousand years of development I read it back in 2005 and still remember much of the plot today; in other words it's a story that stays in a reader's mind Through everyday conflicts in his characters lives fighting over a lover family disputes making enough money to feed yourself living under corrupt leaders Rutherfurd wrote culture and history with a human element It's fascinating to think of the sheer number of people who have lived and died before this generation like us and yet not because of cultural and technological differencesI loved how well he wrote these women; very few writers grasp the opposite gender The women of The Forest believe they should be submissive and that men are superior as that's how they've been schooledyet they are resourceful brilliant strong without turning into anachronismsThis is not light reading Though Rutherfurd gives many characters happy endings they don't all get away unscathed The characters are also historically accurate which means uncomfortable prejudices and practices are considered normal and go unuestioned even when you desperately want characters to ask some uestions Also at nearly 800 pages it takes time to get through The Forest even if you're a uick reader The Forest is a book to be savored and read than once to pick up on the rich detail It's dense in the best possible way Elizabeth ReuterAuthor Demon of Renaissance Drive Few places lie closer to the heart of the nation's heritage than the New Forest Now Edward Rutherfurd weaves its history and legends into compelling fiction From the mysterious killing of King William Rufus treachery and witchcraft smuggling and poaching run through this epic tale of well born ladies lowly woodsmen sailors merchants and Cistercian monks The feuds wars loyalties and passions of generations reach their climax in a crime that shatters the decorous society of Jane Austen's Bath and whose ramifications continue through the age of the Victorian railway builders to the ecologists of the present day Edward Rutherfurd really does like to write large volumes of historical fiction Here he focuses a multi generational epic within England's New Forest that swath of Southern England that still remains with its many uniue birds and mammalsThe New Forest is famous for being the location where King William II Rufus was killed with an arrow I say killed because I believe his younger brother Henry III ordered the accident The book begins at this event and introduces us to the Forest and to each family that will be featured throughout the book The aristocracy the gentry the forest dwellers; each has its own heroes and villains which makes some of the stories interesting and some of the storiesmiddlingWhile the characters are fictional Rutherfurd puts his back into the history of each location so we learn about smuggling treachery politics and surprisingly nature I'm not sure I had a particular favourite or cheered for any particular family but I did enjoy Lymington because it centered closer to the coast and the Isle of Wight When the big easterly comes down the English Channel the Isle of Wight offers no protection Far from it The peaceful paradise becomes a raging brownish cauldron The island disappears behind grey sheets of moving vapourAlso Alice which tells the long story of Alice Lisle the last woman to be beheaded in England Caught harbouring fugitives from the Monmouth Rebellion she was basically condemned based on the fact that her late husband had helped to execute Charles I so James II was getting his own back HeartrendingI don't think I'll be adding any Rutherfurd epics to my library but it was a fun but very long readBook Season Winter tomes that sprawl Whereas London The Novel focuses on obviously the city of London The Forest focuses on the development of England as a whole over the centuries Much of English history concerned the independent hamlets and regions that felt very little connection to the King and to London until the past few hundred years It was fun to read about the small agrarian communities with their nearby abbeys and giant expanses of forest land Many things influenced these small communities as England became a sophisticated country like the shipbuilding yards situated close to those plentiful forests for the wood and the introduction of the steam engine train This is my favorite of the ones about England It spans a large area with a lot of folklore witchcraft and strong females This is the second Rutherfurd book I have read and it was just wonderful I learnt so much about the New Forest and its ways and the lives of the people who lived there I love his books but because they are so huge they take me such a long time to readBack Cover BlurbFew places lie closer to the heart of the nation's heritage than the New Forest The author weaves its history and legends into compelling fictionFrom the mysterious killing of King William Rufus treachery and witchcraft smuggling and poaching run through this epic tale of well born ladies lowly woodsmen sailors merchants and Cistercian monks The feuds wars loyalties and passions of generations reach their climax in a crime that shatters the decorous society of Jane Austen's Bath From the cruel forest laws of the Normans to the danger of the Spanish Armada from the free roaming herds of ponies and wild deer to the mighty oaks which gave Nelson his navy Rutherfurd has captured the essence of this ancient place Forest and sea there is no perfect English heartland I love this bookIt takes time But it rewards It helps if you know the areaI live within a mile of Hale on the edge of the New Forest and daily walk Charlie there When we moved here 18 years ago from London it was like being born into a new world What brought us here was we used to borrow a little upside‑down house in Hyde just below Fordingbridge; the bedroom and bathroom were downstairs and the kitchen and lounge upstairs The previous owners had a glass roof so they could gaze at the stars at night before dropping off After 20 years in London where you only ever saw the North Star and Venus and Mercury on those visits to Mousehole we'd stand on the wooden balcony at night and see the haze of the Milky Way reveal itself into a billion suns The ponies and the donkeys used to visit the back fence because of the long lush grass in the garden The boys were three and five when we started coming down The donkeys would try to eat Josh's hair because it was blond Jamie suddenly drew his first three‑dimensional drawing — and hasn't stopped drawing since We'd stroll down to the ford below and were surprised to find grass snakes both short and thick as your wrist in the bracken and long and emerald sunning on the shingle paths deep in the untroubled forest One day as I was drifting off lying in the sun on a grass bank by the stream in Hale Jamie ran to me Dad Dad look at this It was an adder just a foot long small and thin and jagged with black I had never seen a snake reverse before as it backed into the brackenA few years after we moved down Coco joined us a chocolate Lab and the next year Jessie a colly‑lab cross supposedly We loved them for fifteen years Coco rampaged through the high bracken and woods Jessie bolted through the streams We went everywhere in the Forest with them Bolderwood Brockenhurst all about the north Woodgreen Nomansland Fritham Frogham Gorley over the years We went everywhere It was a magical picturesue world pigs in the woods ponies and foals great secret dells and purple heaths the most beautiful thrilling woodland walks But what I love most about the Forest is the shingle streams shingle from cream to ochre little ochre depths salmon mud banks with seams of blue‑grey silt and sand like the most gorgeous marble imaginable We've just played in one of them down in Hale Purlieu Charlie our new collie puppy is getting brave with the water and he runs flat‑out ears flat and a wide delicious grin through the bracken and heather Coco went a couple of years ago now Jessie last October; it didn't feel right not having a doggie about our lives Then Josh found Charlie What a beautySo knowing these places uite intimately and many of the others brought alive in the book it was a delight to read how Rutherfurd wove his historic tales of family feuds and romances through the Forest and all these places He did it so superbly in Sarum that was an outstanding experience I read it soon after we started coming down finished it just before we moved here It brought the whole area alive Rutherfurd is excellent at his family lines set against huge historic eventsAlthough in The Forest the beginnings are of the distant past the book took off with Beaulieu and even though I was not especially enamoured by the coastal tale of Lymington which was even so still of interest I was enthralled by the Armada piece and fascinated all the way through by the historical setting and explanations which encouraged me to look up the kings and ueens and learn about those events I have never been particularly interested in history prior to the twentieth‑century; now though Rutherfurd so brought all these episodes to life I have an awakened interest Rufus the Red Edward Longshanks John the Bad the merry monarch Charles I a little Dickensian satire splashed these pages the awful James II and so on What criminals they all were I loved the story of Alice Lisle which inn we used to freuent down by Moyles Court as visitors to the Forest I enjoyed the Austen‑like Albion story almost a book in itself; his characterisation was excellent although the trial based in Bath distracted I felt and did not satisfy But because Rutherfurd wove such strong and varying characters throughout each historic episode — some real others invented — it brought every section alive entertained throughout and taught me a great deal about Forest ways and terms and practices about nature's way and about how all this interacted with the historical setting and how those historic episodes involved and changed the Forest The Forest is best read if you have two or three weeks to come down and explore the place It is my home this part of the world I felt so strongly from the beginning that I belonged here The Forest sat on my shelf for thirteen years waiting to be read while I was distracted elsewhere in the world because of my work How facile that working life compared to the rich depth of spiritual soulful belonging which living in and around the New Forest has been and still is It was high time I came back home and got back into the Forest Rutherfurd has brought it alive for me again — although I do not think I can ever regain that sense of love and wonder and belonging that exhilaration I felt during the first few years visiting and living here Sheer wonder it wasGeographically less explorative and less grand than Sarum The Forest is nonetheless a wholesome and reviving experience which I thoroughly enjoyed I must read Sarum again now

About the Author: Edward Rutherfurd

Francis Edward Wintle best known under his pen name Edward Rutherfurd was born in the cathedral city of Salisbury Educated locally and at the universities of Cambridge and Stanford California he worked in political research bookselling and publishing After numerous attempts to write books and plays he finally abandoned his career in the book trade in 1983 and returned to his childhood h

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