Book Review: Understory by Inga Simpson

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Title: Understory
Author: Inga Simpson
Publication Date: 30th May 2017

Synopsis: "'The understorey is where I live, alongside these plants and creatures. I tend the forest, stand at the foot of trees and look up, gather what has fallen.'

This is the story of a tree change, of escaping suburban Brisbane for a cottage on ten acres in search of a quiet life. Of establishing a writers retreat shortly before the Global Financial Crisis hit, and of losing just about everything when it did. It is also the story of what the author found there: the beauty of nature and her own path as a writer.

Understory is a memoir about staying in one place, told through trees, by the award-winning author of Mr Wigg, Nest and Where the Trees Were."

My thoughts: Oh, I barely know what to say here. This book rushed right in to my heart and sprouted a little sapling there. Now that sapling is a full-blown tree and I seem to be unable to stop reading (also my heart has a tree in it, apparently).

Not only is Simpson's writing absolutely beautiful, it completely draws you in to life with trees - I often looked up what trees she was talking about so that I could picture it even more clearly whilst I read. I also had my guides to Australian birds open to do something similar. Simpson imbues her writing with the love of trees, and you often feel upset when she is about the needless destruction of nature. Simpson writes soulfully - this is the best word I can come up with - and talks about her life in general as well as her life specifically around certain trees.

I really enjoyed how each chapter header was a different type of tree, or a different part of the tree or forest. You feel as if you are slowly being drawn closer, welcomed in to a circle of wisdom, of calm. Even though Simpson is talking about some truly stressful things at times, the way she writes about all of it feels so...calm. It all makes it a joy to read, and, honestly? After I had finished this book the first time, I really did flip back to the front to begin again. This book touches something within me that I find hard to describe (which, as you saw before, leads to trees growing in my heart), and I just want to hug it for that. I want to hug Inga Simpson for this book. More of this, please.

[And can we just take a moment for this cover? In person it is even more delightful. Just beautiful.]

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

A favourite line from the book: 'The rose gums I see on rainforest walks are different creatures, massive columns with great ribbons of bark raining down and covering the forest floor around them, burls on their trunks big enough to make a home in. They have such presence it feels appropriate to bow down, but I am too busy looking up. I wish I could see what they have seen, how they know the world.'

You would like this book if: you enjoy nature writing with a thread of memoir running through; you like trees as much as Bethwyn.

Tea to drink while reading this book: in this case, it is not important what tea you drink, as long as you drink it whilst looking at trees.

Rating: 10/10

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