What’s it all about?:
Harriet Norton won’t stop crying. Her parents, Ann and Thomas, are being driven close to insanity and only one thing will help. Mysteriously, their infant daughter will only calm when she’s under the ancient trees of Bleasdale forest.
The Nortons sell their town-house and set up home in an isolated barn. Secluded deep in the forest, they are finally approaching peace – until one night a group of men comes through the trees, ready to upend their lives and threaten everything they’ve built.
Into the Trees is the story of four dispossessed people, drawn to the forest in search of something they lack and finding their lives intertwining in ways they could never have imagined. In hugely evocative and lyrical writing, Robert Williams lays bare their emotional lives, set against the intense and mysterious backdrop of the forest. Compelling and haunting, Into the Trees is a magisterial novel.
What did I think?:
Into The Trees came my way via the wonderful booksellers at Mr B’s Emporium Of Reading Delights in Bath who recommended this novel (and sold it remarkably well!) in a reading spa that I attended with my sister, Chrissi Reads. It’s been a little while now since we first heard about it so my memory had faded somewhat about why I was so excited to read it but then everything came flooding back as soon as I had read the first intriguing chapters. After a previously disappointing reading experience with a previous Mr B’s recommendation, Hideous Creatures, I was so relieved to be pleasantly surprised by this novel. It’s relatively slow paced so if you’re a fan of non stop action in your plots, this may not be the book for you. There is one major, dramatic event which is pivotal to the characters in our story but apart from this, it’s very much a methodical character study of how this event affects both the family in the book and those closest to them.
This is the tale of Ann and Thomas Norton whom when our story begins, are struggling with their new baby, Harriet. She refuses to sleep at night and our poor, severely sleep-deprived parents are really suffering with the exhaustion and physical, mental and emotional stress of it all. On a whim one night, Thomas drives Harriet into the forest and strangely enough, she stops crying. After repeating the experiment numerous times, the couple discover that it is only when Harriet is within the trees that she will sleep through the night. Of course, this is an answer to their prayers and they immediately sell their house and move to one within the forest so that they can all finally be happy. Unfortunately, their peace and happiness does not last for long when a terrible crime is committed against the family. The reverberations of this incident will haunt parents and children alike, especially Thomas who sinks into severe depression with the guilt of not being able to better protect his family and terrified that it could happen to them again.
I absolutely adored the opening chapters of this novel, which I also believe was its strongest part (and if it had carried on in this vein, there is no doubt I would be giving it a higher rating). The mystery behind why baby Harriet will not stop crying unless she is in the forest was almost fairy-tale in its execution and although we never find out exactly why the trees had such a calming effect on her I was fascinated to see how it would all turn out. I’m finding it quite hard to categorise this novel or pop it into a genre, I don’t think it slots easily into a neat little box. There’s parts of it that are almost fantastical but not quite, then there’s the literary style of the author’s writing and finally, the thriller portion where the family are attacked. The pace ebbs and flows, reaching a peak when the crime is committed and then slowly meandering down to a much more sedate narrative. I very much enjoyed the characterisation, particularly of Thomas and Thomas’ new friend, quiet but soft-hearted Raymond.
Furthermore, the villain of the piece is wonderfully drawn, very easy to hate yet incredibly authentic to read. Think of the worst neighbour you’ve ever had (or heard about) and then imagine him written down as a character. He was very believable and I also appreciated his journey as a character, through self-loathing, greed and despair. As a reading experience, I definitely had an enjoyable time with this novel. There were parts that were stronger than others and the ending left me feeling slightly crestfallen, just wanting a bit more but it’s certainly made me curious to check out some of the author’s other works.
Would I recommend it?:
Star rating (out of 5):
Into The Trees by Robert Williams was the twenty-fifth book on my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!