North Woods

Daniel Mason's novel North Woods was a recommendation from a guest on the ABC's Radio National Book Shelf show, and a very enjoyable read it was, too. As someone who has recently published a novel featuring several time-slip journeys within one house, a grown-up novel tracing the history of a single house over centuries was extremely appealing. 

I think North Woods was described as a 'polyphonic' novel; another very appealing genre. It's almost like a collection of short stories, in different voices and styles, chronologically following the building, extension, and slow ruin of a house in the remote woods of Massachusetts, beginning with a runaway pair of Puritan lovers and ending far into our future when the yellow house has disintegrated and burned to ashes. There are clever threads that resurface through the story, as bodies and lost letters are rediscovered and ghosts of past characters haunt the current inhabitants. It's never cutesy, though, don't imagine a literary version of Ghosts; in fact at times it's quite eerie and even edging into horror. The woods themselves are a constant vivid presence, which followed on very neatly from my reading of Braiding Sweetgrass.

Long ago I read Daniel Mason's first book, The Piano Tuner, for my then book group; it was a massive success, and notable for being written while Mason was still a medical student. I remember thinking it was all right, but it didn't blow me away (I was probably jealous, being then unpublished myself). North Woods is an entertaining, assured and accomplished novel which was hugely fun to read and was probably also a lot of fun to write.

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