Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring by Richard Preston, a book review

I first read The Wild Trees  by Richard Preston a couple of years ago and was enchanted by the images it conjured. Who knew there were bonsai forests up in the branches of these bigger trees? Why hadn't anyone looked before? The stories of the people who love these trees-- Steve Sillett, Marie Antoine, and Michael Taylor are intertwined with the description and discussion of the trees.

In fact, this is one complaint I had on rereading the book. It was the memory of the trees, my mental images of those hidden forests, that drew me to pick it up again, and the people are, in fact, the dominant characters. Perhaps this is not a fair complaint--I loved the book enough to remember it and seek it out again, after all--but I would have liked more redwood and less character study.

Also, the images have to remain those I form for myself. There are no photographs in the book. I do not know if this was a money-saving decision on the part of the publisher or a decision the biologists and/or Preston made in an attempt to protect the trees (Real names and locations are often deliberately hidden), but I would dearly love to see these bonsai groves and glads, and the only way that will happen is if someone publishes pictures. Instead, the book has a handful of pen and ink sketches; well-executed, but not adequate substitutes for photography.

Verdict? It's well worth reading, but not perfect.


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