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Sunday, May 7, 2017

Into That Forest: The Methods of Extinction

I read Into That Forest by Louis Nowra at the end of April because I wanted a short book that I could read in one day.  I never imagined what a powerhouse it would be when I picked it up.  I also didn't know anything about Tasmania, the setting of this novel.  I learned for the first time that it's an island off the coast of Australia.    I hadn't heard of the award winning Australian author Louis Nowra either. This shows that I'm woefully ignorant about  Australia and Australian writers.  I hope to remedy this ignorance.


Into That Forest deals with the adoption of two girls aged six and seven by Tasmanian tigers in the aftermath of a terrible storm.   They lived with the tigers for four years.  The cover above is beautifully symbolic representing a girl who has become part tiger.

This is not a sweet story.  It's a rather grim tale dealing with violence and savagery.  It raises the issue of whether tigers or humans are more savage.  It shows the process of extinction.  Tasmanian tigers are now extinct.  Because their heads are wolf-like, they were also known as Tasmanian wolves.  I found a public domain photo showing two of the last survivors of this species in a zoo.
          By Baker; E.J. Keller. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Hannah, the viewpoint character, is the daughter of a man who was part of a whaling crew.   So human predation of whales is also an element of this novel.  Hannah is portrayed as changing her identification from human to animal then back to human again.   She was always a hunter by temperament which is how she fit in so well in a tiger family.   I identified with the tigers myself.  They were such good parents to those girls.  I feel that I am in mourning for their species.

My experience of reading this book was emotionally intense, and I feel that the themes involved in this novel are mature ones.  The publisher markets it for children above twelve, but children mature at different rates.  I would advise parents to read this book with their children and discuss it with them.



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