◐ Book Name: A Summer of the Forest Folk
◐ Author: Maria Rodziewiczówna, translated by Tom Pinch
◐ Genre: Literary Fiction
◐ Pages: 230
Three men stay in their forest cabin for the summer, teaching their young charge the way they nourish their souls through communion with nature.
Recommended for lovers of nature, and whimsical and lyrical writing
◐ Review: 4/5 ⭐
I received a copy of this book from the publication team in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.
You know that feeling you get when you read a book that just gets you? That was this book for me.
The language in this book is absolutely charming. It reads like a fantasy but is rooted in reality because the author is writing of real life. The way she writes reveals her deep love of nature. She personifies nature elements in a way that makes them more real, more relatable. It’s as though she truly sees them as companions that are living and speaking and painfully real. It is beautiful.
I, too, find refuge among trees much more easily than anything man-made.
Scattered throughout this idyllic tale of simple living, are mentions of oppression and war in the world outside–a reflection of Rodziewiczówna’s own background of the Russian occupation in Poland, and their fight for freedom. This gives the forest refuge greater depth because all the characters find freedom there–freedom they cannot experience in the real world.
Where this book falls short for me is the lack of character development, which is negligent. None of the three characters felt real to me; they blended into each other so much, that I had trouble differentiating them. There was also no plot to speak of. I know I said I don’t mind not having a great plot, but something?
The book describes Wolverine, Crane, and Panther and their daily lives in the forest. That’s about it. I guess it lives up to its title, in that sense. Yes, things happen from time to time. New characters come into the story.
I especially liked Wolverine’s nephew whom they christen Whatisit. He is sent to the trio after making trouble at his school in the city, and at first has trouble adjusting to life in the forest. Over time Whatisit grows in his appreciation for the woods, and his efforts to make himself worthy of becoming one of their forest tribe.
Whatisit (Wolverine’s young, teenage nephew) serves as a stand-in for the reader who does not yet understand the magic of the wilderness, and he is the only one who goes through any notable growth.
Despite these minor flaws, A Summer of the Forest Folk has easily made its way to my personal hoard of comfort reads. It is simple yet beautiful. There’s an aura of peacefulness as I read it. While I wouldn’t recommend it to everybody, especially those looking for a fast-paced, exciting read, I’d still want everybody to read it. Because in our world of technology and modern conveniences, it’s a timely reminder to slow down; it’s a call to return to our roots (pun intended), and be mindful of how the earth is both our mother and our responsibility.
For a light, whimsical read that takes you out of the many cares and worries of your daily life, pick up this book and escape to the forest.
We shall talk about an ancient people here, as ancient as the eternal forest. It has ancestors of all ages and all nations, for it is not a tribe of the body but of the soul, not of the inhabitants of a forest but of its lovers; of the true worshippers of the wood.
They recognized the trees and spoke to them as if to closest friends.
In the silence of the night, the rain had woken them with its murmur, inviting them to a wedding; and when the sun rose, the earth turned toward him, fragrant, colorful, and seemingly singing with joy.
The forest whispered softly, a kind of quiet panting of the revival of spring, and the man, staring and listening, lost himself in this great, mighty whole and felt how its great forces entered him, how he absorbed their power, how they now coursed inside him.
“Sir! I mean, please, Panther…Are you not scared here? All alone?”
“Oh, but this place is positively crowded! Listen: That’s a Billy goat barking. And that–that’s a black grouse. You can hear the frogs, and that–that’s the harriers calling on the wing. There is more life here than in the city.”
“But no people!”
“Ha! And that’s why it’s safest. What can be more dangerous to man than another man?”
Let those wonder who do not understand that only our soul is our own, and everything else is merely rented. Merely temporary.
“It’s like this. The whole wisdom of existence lies in a fairy tale, and it is our challenge to institute that fairy tale in our real life. … The hero wins happiness because he sacrifices himself to free the weak, the oppressed, and the cursed. And we need to do that in real life. In a fairy tale, the strong support the weak, and the good and weak defeat the strong and evil. And all God’s creatures: birds and beast, reptile and insect, return to friendship with man, to a mutual understanding. Which is how things should be.”