Two books about trees

The day we climbed Black Combe I was lent three books. Reviews of two of them are included here. I intend to write about the third one for my post next week.

The Hidden Life of Trees and Overstory
The two books

The Hidden Life of Trees is a very readable nonfiction book by Peter Wohlleben translated from German by Jane Billinghurst. The strapline is What They Feel, How They Communicate, Discoveries from a Secret World. The German edition was published in 2015 and the English translation in 2017.

Some of the information from this book was not new to me as it was included in Underland by Robert Macfarlane. One of the facts I already knew – trees are linked together underground by a network of fungi, which is essential to the healthy life of a forest. In The Hidden Life of Trees Peter Wohlleben was writing from his practical experience of managing forests in the Eifel mountains of Germany.

Much research has been done particularly from the 1990s onwards and there is a bibliography supporting the arguments in the book. It is fascinating to read about how trees protect their young, warn of an attack by pests and decide when to produce the most seeds in a so-called mast year. This book is essential reading for anyone interested in the natural world and especially for those with responsibility for management of woodland anywhere. Understanding is essential for the good of the planet.

It should also be read by people responsible for planning and development.

The next book I read was a work of fiction – The Overstory by Richard Powers, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2019. This book is in four main parts Roots, Trunk, Crown and Seeds. In Roots we are introduced to seven individuals and one couple. Their stories are then woven through the book as they realise the vulnerability of the natural world in the face of human greed. There is much drama and suspense. Story is a powerful way of sharing ideas.

The amount of detailed research behind this book is quite astonishing. Unfortunately, like one of the characters in the book, the author has not provided a bibliography. Perhaps this would have been unusual in a work of fiction.

These two books are both excellent on their own. Reading them one after the other reinforces the message that trees need protection.


Books about writing and reading from BorrowBox

The next two books I am reviewing are connected by subject matter.

Ernest Hemingway on writing edited by Larry W. Phillips is a compilation of Hemingway’s thoughts about writing. I have not read any of Ernest Hemingway’s books, but he was a famous author living from 1899-1961 who is currently being featured due to the 60th anniversary of his death. (I learned that sadly he took his own life.)

This is not a book for people, who avoid reading bad language, but it is an insight into the way one author thought about and approached his work. The extracts are taken from personal letters and from his works of fiction.

The Girl who reads on the Métro by Christine Féret-Fleury is a delightful story with some sad events, which was quite different from anything I had read before. It is the first book by Christine Féret-Fleury to be translated from French to English. There is mystery and sadness, but as the blurb on BorrowBox indicated it is a book to leave you with a smile on your face.

Like The Librarian by Salley Vickers and Lucy Mangan’s Bookworm, The Girl who reads on the Métro includes a list of titles. Unlike the other two books with lists, there was only one book listed, which I have read: Tess of the D’Urbevilles. There are also questions for book groups. I recommend it to lovers of fiction.


Book review: You Beneath Your Skin

Book cover

I follow Damyanti Biswas’ blog. As far as I remember I became aware of her through the A to Z Challenge a number of years ago. A long time ago when You Beneath Your Skin by Damyanti Biswas was available free on Kindle I attempted to download it, but met with some technical difficulties. I was unsure I wanted to read this book, which is described as ‘A gripping urban contemporary crime novel’. I knew it included acid attacks on women in India.
So I didn’t attempt to solve the technical problem.

When I tried to download The Beloved, I encountered a similar problem, but was determined to read this book. I filled in the dialogue box, which had appeared and registered my Kindle app. (I had last used it before a system upgrade.)

To my surprise I later discovered that I had two other new books in my Kindle Library. I began to read You Beneath Your Skin and found it gripping, but emotionally demanding. I read it in eight days. (Reading books on my laptop is not my favourite pastime!)

The number of characters (with names unfamiliar to me) was a little confusing at first, but as the story progressed I became better acquainted with them and with their relationships to one another. My knowledge of India is confined to what I have read or heard about it. I have never travelled there.

The story is gripping. There is also a convincing back-story, which emerges gradually. The perpetrators of crimes are identified, but with plenty of suspense. Relationships within families are important.

I found the book extremely readable, interesting, well-written and exciting. It gives an insight into many aspects of life in an Indian city and Indian multilingual culture. Somehow all aspects of life have been included without seeming contrived. There are unexpected turns of event.

The author’s profits from this book are used to support two charities. One helps survivors of acid attacks and the other helps underprivileged children. You Beneath Your Skin highlights the need for such charitable work.

I am glad that I eventually read it.

Coming soon: Next week as part of a blog tour my post about books will appear on Wednesday 19 May.