Once Upon a Time, When We All Lived in the Forest

I read an interesting book this weekend, called Into the Forest, by Jean Hegland. The two main characters, virtually the only characters, are two orphaned sisters living in a small house in the Pacific Northwest, in a post-Apocalypse world.

Post-apocalypse is perhaps the wrong word, as society has collapsed under its own weight: there was a far-off, costly war; diseases swept the countryside; utilities became intermittent, then non-existent; the petrol deliveries stopped; the markets were all stripped, then left to stand empty. The remaining people in their town barricaded themselves away, or left following rumours of order restored in the cities.

The girls spend the first winter waiting for the power to come back on, eating their way through the dwindling stores of storebought food, and then gradually learn how to build a life for themselves by becoming part of nature again, regaining a place in the natural turn of the seasons.

That’s all I’ll say…you should read it. There was one paragraph that I quite liked, where the sisters are trying to build a drying screen using their mother’s wedding dress, which as young girls they had both sworn to wear at their own weddings:

“I lifted the hem of the dress, caressed the gauzy fabric between my earth-stained hands, and remembered how the Unicorn Tapestries had been used by peasants to keep their potato crop from freezing during the French Revolution, how after the Reformation, stones from England’s cathedrals were built into pig sties and door stoops, and books from the monastery libraries were torn up -page by page- in outhouses. Then I looked up at the smoke-reddened sun and went back to the house for scissors.”

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