Into the Forest by Jean Hegland

I’ve been waiting for this book to arrive so I can read it since I stepped off the plane from Toronto and realised the in-flight movie was based on a novel. I absolutely loved the film and I was praying it wasn’t so vastly different to the book that is be disappointed in either. Luckily I wasn’t!

Into The Forest is set in near-future California where two sisters live isolated and miles away from any other people in a forest. The power has gone, there are rumours of war and turmoil in congress and the nearest town is thirty miles away and almost abandoned. While the film is slightly more linear (beginning when the power dies and moving on from there) the book is written from the point of view of Nell, the youngest of the two sisters, some time after their father has died. We get snippets of what she remembers from the time the power went out, their father’s death, their childhood, but also their struggles to live on dwindling supplies.

It reminded me very much of Our Endless Numbered Days in both style and theme but there was also a much more feminist slant. Nell uses the encyclopaedias left by her parents to inspire her and learn from and ultimately keep her and her sister alive. It’s bleak, and at some points deeply uncomfortable, but it’s not unpleasant to read. It felt like a working mix of poetry and science.

It was, in parts, brutal. And I don’t think it’s one for everyone (there is, although brief, talk of rape and incest. Then less briefly fairly gruesome death and the butchering of a wild pig). But with those warnings in mind I do throughly recommend both the book and the film! 

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