Into the Woods by Anna Krien

I haven’t finished this yet – and I feel as though I’m cheating a bit by reviewing it before the end, but I don’t want to do it a disservice by rushing through just for the sake of finishing.

When I asked Anna to sign a copy of “Into the Woods” for my dad for christmas (he had been harbouring not-so-secret desires of moving to Tasmania because of the picture perfect landscape, so the book seemed only fitting) she wrote “some curious stories about a curious island”. It seems apt that she would use the plural as this is, in many ways a book that would be read well in short(ish) bursts rather than in one full sitting. It is comprehensive look at issues that are complex and deeply rooted in the history of both the environment and the people who live there, and so it would be unfair to assume an understanding after only a cursory read. It is a book that needs digesting. More so, it is one that deserves it.

Anna Krien has done a magnificent job just to wrap her own head around the issues stewing in the middle of this ongoing battle. More than magnificent is the way that she has woven them into this account which is both deeply personal and extraordinarily detailed. What takes me aback about the writing in “Into the Woods” is that while the author clearly has her own opinion on the subject matter, she has delivered what reads as an incredibly fair account of the issues and people involved. She paints personal pictures of victims on both sides, and shows a clear effort to get behind the larger machinations to all involved.

There is never a sense that she’s trying to be a hero. It doesn’t seem like a book that is trying to win awards (although it is certainly deserving) and it doesn’t seem like some patronising outsider has gone stamping into a situation they know nothing about, hoping to do everyone a favour by shedding some light on the issue. If anything, Krien is a humble narrator, completely aware of her limited understanding, and it is exactly this that shows in the equal voice she gives to characters on all sides of the battle.

It’s unlikely that I’ll sit down and finish this over the weekend – but even away from the book, I find myself thinking about it, rolling parts over in my mind that I’ll return to later. Curious stories about a curious island indeed, and I look forward to reading the rest.

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