Book Review: Sylvan Cities by Helen Babbs

Monday, July 29, 2019

Title: Sylvan Cities
Author: Helen Babbs
Publication Date: June 3rd 2019
Price: $29.99AUD (correct at time of writing)

Synopsis: "An illustrated guide to some of the most common trees standing sentry on our street corners, and an anecdotal treasure trove of facts and history, science and leafy lore.

We are surrounded in towns and cities by trees, quiet colossi that most of us don't know by name. Does that matter? It is certainly possible to appreciate a tree for its shade and its shelter without knowing whether it is an alder, an elder, a lime or a beech. But really knowing a tree means looking harder, and it's only then that we begin to see the stories beneath the bark - of how trees are as integral to medicine and art as they are furniture and firewood; of the tree that inspired Ludwig van Beethoven and the one that gave solace to Anne Frank; of why wild figs grow on the banks of Sheffield's rivers and why the ash tree is touched with magic and mischief..."

My thoughts: This is such a sweet, beautifully designed little book. I love the illustrations of each tree, the descriptions of their features, and then the little discussions about how Babbs encountered them, or important notes from their histories. Parts of this were really quite beautiful, and I really loved learning more about the trees that we might often come across (though I think this is specific for London, I also recognised a few that we have over here in Perth, West Aus, too). 

I will say that I found myself just wanting more throughout the book. I wanted to feel more of Babbs' personality in the writing and her encounters with the trees, and also more of their history and where she was finding them. I wanted this book to be bigger and more in-depth, I guess, and given that it's only a little guide, that just wasn't possible. I think this is possibly why I found myself not really engaging with the book as much as I would like, though that could also be a reflection of the stress I've been under - it's so hard to tell sometimes.

Regardless, I found this to be a beautiful little book, and I think I will be referring to it for research purposes in the future.

{I received a review copy of this book from Allen & Unwin in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!!}

A favourite line from the book: 'A 400-year-old beech tree is awe-inspiring, while the forest can offer those of us who wander into its charmed precincts a release, albeit temporary, from real life.'

You would like this book if: You enjoy gentle nature writing; you want to know more about trees that you may commonly see around on the streets.

Tea to drink while reading this book: I did a little research on herbs and spices that are also classified as trees, and cinnamon and cloves popped up - so perhaps a nice chai? Even... homemade? Either way, lovely and spicy and tasty. :)

Rating:  7/10

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