Into the Forest is a novel by Jean Hegland.
Finished on 17.6.2015
Nell and Eva grow up with their parents just outside of a small town in the Redwood Forest. But then something happens and slowly the infrastructure around them falls apart. First there is no more electricity, then no more gas and then they are entirely isolated in their forest home. After the death of both their parents and when they realize that power, infrastructure and life as it was won’t be reinstated any time soon, Nell and Eva have to try and manage their lives on their own, entirely self-reliant.
I heard about the novel because there’s a movie coming (with one hell of a cast) and I thought I’d give it a try before the film comes out. And that was an excellent decision. Into the Woods is a beautifully written, extremely engaging novel with an ending that left me a bit unsatisfied. But other than that, I absolutely adored it.
Into the Forest has quite a bit in common with The Wall, but there are some essential differences: In The Wall the isolated woman is all on her own; it’s about finding back to nature and to herself. Into the Forest, on the other hand, is about looking for sisterhood and starting fresh, without the cultural baggage of generations.
What they definitely share is that I loved both books (in different ways). Hegland’s novel has many strengths: likeable protagonists with an interesting relationship, a touching story that made me cry several times, a great atmosphere and an interesting and smart take on rape and what follows rape.
Above all it had beautiful,beautiful prose. Over and over again Hegland comes up with descriptions that quite literally made me gasp (and underline several passages in the book). It is very rare to get prose like that and particularly in a first novel. I’m still in awe about that.
I wouldn’t have minded if the novel had been twice as long as it was, especially since the ending was its weakest part. It starts with the burning of books (which is always a bit of a punch to the gut when I read/hear about it), but that isn’t the only problem. I just thought that it was a little too radical in its rejection of all that came before the forest.
But in such an exceptional novel, that is a minor complaint. I can only urge you to read it, especially if you have any love for language.
Summarizing: Wonderful perfection.