Author: Posie Graeme-Evans
Simon & Schuster RRP $29.99
Review: Monique Mulligan
Readers are in for a treat with Wild Wood, the latest offering from Posie Graeme-Evans. Part contemporary, part historical fiction, the novel combines appealing writing style with an intriguing plot to deliver an ultimately satisfying read.
Graeme-Evans is a best-selling author (The Island House and The Dressmaker) who has worked in Australian film and television for the last thirty years, with credits such as McLeod’s Daughters and Daytime Emmy-nominated Hi-5. I didn’t watch McLeod’s Daughters (my sons did watch Hi 5 in its early days) and I’ve never read anything by Graeme-Evans before this, so I had no expectations when I picked up this book. I was very pleasantly surprised.
The story begins in London, where Jesse Marley has travelled in hope of tracking down her birth family. She feels like she doesn’t know who she is anymore. After an accident leaves her temporarily mute, she uses her left hand to communicate to her doctor (even though she’s right-handed), and then, through a form of automatic writing/drawing, she begins to draw places and people from the past, such as a castle and a man in medieval armour. She’s never been to the castle, but her doctor recognises it, and arranges for her to visit the place to see why these images are coming to her. Is the fact that she was born not far from the castle relevant? Is there a message from the past she needs to know? As a realist, Jesse doesn’t think so, but the more time she spends at Hundredfield, the more she is forced to question whether life is just about the here and now.
The story’s dual narrative hooked me quickly; on the one hand, there’s Jesse’s storyline, set in 1981 in the lead-up to Prince Charles and Lady Diana’s wedding. This begins in London but quickly moves north to the border counties and Hundredfield Castle. Linked to this is Bayard’s story, set in 1321, which has the castle as its centrepoint. Jesse’s story has a sense of immediacy (the present tense, third person adds to that); the bustling excitement of a city in celebratory mode contrasts with the isolated environment and the decaying castle. Although Bayard’s story is told in first person, past tense, it has no less immediacy – the bloody, barbaric, harsh and unforgiving nature of the times comes across strongly. These scenes are compelling, full of drama, action and suspense. It made me want to find out more about the times – I love it when a book does that. And then there are the pagan connections, with The Lady of the Forest, adding even more mystery (or fantasy) to the tale.
A story about fate and coincidence, about belonging and believing, and about family and history, Wild Wood is a wonderfully captivating read. Fans of Outlander will love it, but the book’s appeal certainly doesn’t stop there. I highly recommend it. As for me, I’m on the lookout for more by Graeme-Evans.
Wild Wood will be available from good bookstores from April 2015. My uncorrected proof was courtesy of Simon & Schuster ahead of a blog tour timing with publication. Watch out for a guest post here from the author.
Bookish treat: Tea, shortbread, maybe a scone or two?