Sunday 9 September 2012

253. Into That Forest by Louis Nowra

Into That Forest by Louis Nowra
Published September 2012 Allen & Unwin

From the publisher:
Written by one of Australia's foremost literary talents, this is an unforgettable and heartbreaking novel.  From the opening sentence, Hannah's storytelling voice carries the reader swiftly along, as we see the two little girls learning to hunt with the tigers, being nurtured and trained by the tigers, adopting the language of coughs, barks and tail signals, coming to love and rely on the tigers as a family.

This is one of those books that the children's publisher at Allen & Unwin raved about, the SA rep raved about, and a copy was sent to us, saying we MUST read this book.  It is one of those books that you can't say too much about, because you don't want to take anything away from the readers experience of reading the book with no preconceived notions.

Here's some text from the opening page:

'Me name be Hannah O'Brien and I be seventy-six years old. Me first thing is an apology - me language is bad cos I lost it and had to learn it again. But here's me story and I be glad to tell it before I hop the twig.'

I did worry for a brief moment that I would struggle with the language, but I needn't have, you very quickly get caught up in the amazing story of Hannah and Rebecca and the language is no longer an issue.  It isn't stated when this book is set, but based on what was happening during the story I would say it's sometime after 1888, because in 1888 Tasmanian Parliament placed a price of £1 on thylacine's head.  

Hannah and Rebecca are left alone in the wilderness after a wild storm kills Hannah's parents.  The Tasmanian wilderness was just that, wild, and the two girls quickly realised that they had little chance of finding their way home.  Hannah who always had an affinity with animals, is dragged out of the water by a Tasmanian tiger, and the two girls see no choice but to follow the creature home.  What unfolds now is the amazing story of the girls' survival, a life with the Tasmanian tigers. Hannah had less trouble embracing her new life than Rebecca, who clung to her human ways a little longer, not wanting to forget where she had come from.  

As  I said, I won't go into detail, but the story follows the girls for their years in the wilderness, and then when they are found, their rehabilitation into the human world.  The book is fictional, and while there have been other fictional tales, one of the more famous being Tarzan,  there have also been many recorded cases of children who have been raised by animals, see this link:

The other important story in this book is that of the Tasmanian tiger (Thylacine).  The Tasmanian tiger was declared extinct in 1986 (although there are regular 'sightings'), it's demise began in the late 19th Century where as I mentioned earlier there was a bounty placed on the Thylacine.  The problem with the tigers came with the introduction of sheep to Tasmania, for the tigers, sheep was a very handy source of food in the cold winter months, and the farmers were not happy.  This book is an amazing insight into the world of the tigers, that even when they were alive, were the most allusive of creatures, only coming out at night to hunt. 

For more information on the thylacine click on the link below:

Who will like this book: Girls and Boys age 15+, adults
Read it if you: are fascinated  by the idea that children can be raised by animals

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