Monday, June 4, 2012

'The White Forest'

I love stories centered around mythology.  Greek, Roman, Norse, British. They are everywhere, and are the basis for many of the greatest stories ever written.  Those supernatural beings were the ones we turned to for answers when our questions became too complex.

At the center of most mythology is the mother, the 'feminine'.  Because the male aspect seems to be more concerned with conquest; taking what is not to be taken, raping and pillaging; the feminine is the counterpoint, that which is strong, tender, and capable of indescribable wrath.  Not that the male side isn't capable of said wrath; their version is more like a world war. You just don't mess with Mother Nature:  Her wrath affects all aspects of humanity and reminds us that love, indeed, is the answer.  And when life is back on an even keel, the war is over...for now.

And then along came the industrial revolution in the 1800's.  Life became a bit easier for the human population, yet, at the same time, was almost the ruin of the natural world.   

As machines enabled people to enjoy more leisure time, some members of society turned to spiritualism and the supernatural.  Incessantly curious, they participated in seances, palm reading, and the search for spirits that they felt were ever-present.  Such a past-time colored Victorian literature; even Sherlock Holmes stories were not without it (Conan Doyle was notorious for his love of the paranormal).  The love of all things 'spooky and strange' is still with us; cable television abounds with series focused on searches for the paranormal.  While some think that the paranormal is total bullshit, there are those who want to believe; to uncover the mysteries, to make contact with those who have gone on to the 'great adventure'.

Adam McOmber's debut novel, 'The White Forest', is narrated by Jane Silverlake, a young woman living with her widower father in a crumbling mansion on the outskirts of Victorian London.  Jane can see the souls of man-made objects, a talent that leaves her isolated from polite society.  But after she makes friends with neighbors Nathan and Madeline, she slowly exposes her secret to them, but by doing so, finds herself in competition with Madeline for the affections of Nathan.  Nathan, however, becomes obsessed with a cult led by a charismatic mystic who isn't what he seems.  After Nathan vanishes, it is up to his two friends to rescue him...and for Jane to finally come to terms with who she really is.

This very original novel gets to the heart of the matter very quickly, and I felt great sympathy for Jane's isolation.  But as she grew stronger and came into her own, I cheered her on.  Mr. McOmber's economy of words drew me in and kept me turning pages, and the mystery surrounding Nathan's disappearance came to a stunning conclusion.

It was not what I expected.  

The novel's gothic style only adds to the delicious tension of the story, and the reader can actually lose him/herself in the atmospheric telling of a tale that could very well be turned into a film (that in itself scares me).

Although 'The White Forest' is not necessarily a 'beach read', it is well worth your time...late at night, when the moon is full and the forest beckons.

'The White Forest' will be published by Touchstone in September 2012.

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