My book club read for October was The Trees, the latest novel by Ali Shaw, author of the Desmond Elliott Prize winning The Girl With Glass Feet and The Man Who Rained. It was a book that caught our attention due to its intriguing premise, not to mention its beautiful cover!
‘And out of sight, on the highest of branches and in the most secret of hollows, stranger creatures went about their business.’
The Trees can be considered a post-apocalyptic novel of sorts, but one with unusual beginnings. It begins the night the trees came, thundering up through the ground, transforming the suburbs into a dense shadowy forest. The trees destroy everything in their path, breaking through homes, destroying property and taking lives, leaving chaos in their wake. Within a few moments, the world had changed, and it leaves our protagonist, Adrien, as an unlikely hero. Separated from his wife Michelle who was away from home as the trees struck, Adrien is forced to venture into this dark new world to find her. Alongside him is Hannah who, unlike Adrien, is a lover of nature, enchanted by the trees appearance. She is also the mother of teenager Seb, and together they set off into the forest, intending to meet up with Hannah’s brother, and to reunite Adrien with his wife. And so begins their remarkable journey…
‘There are no good men and there are no bad…There is just earth and appetite, nothing more.’
I was intrigued by this story and eager to discover what lay ahead for the characters as they venture into this unrecognisable world. There was an unpredictability to the story, and you never knew who are what they may encounter next. This included their meeting with Hiroko, a Japanese girl skilled at survival who has a charming relationship with a fox cub named Yasuo which I loved. It is a novel that blends a few genres. It is part post-apocalyptic epic, part survivalist story with added elements of fantasy and fairytale. And ultimately it is a tale of man versus nature, and how humans deal with the challenges nature presents. The forest setting is a haunting one, and there is an eerie quality to it, with unusual creatures and unsavoury characters hiding within. And as events take increasingly dark and sinister turns we see that the characters are forced to find the darkness in themselves. This is a haunting book which looks at the power of nature and how it can be so relentless, so cruel. It was also fascinating to see how the characters adapt and how their relationships with each other and their surroundings change throughout their journey into the dark heart of nature.
‘We were the ones who knew all along that the earth is all we have. What did you think, when the trees came?’
The Trees is an enjoyable read filled with tension, darkness and a journey into the unknown. And at its core is an exploration of love and companionship, life and death, man and beast.