Greenwood by Michael Christie

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If I were a judge for the Giller Prize, Greenwood would be my winning choice. Clearly me and the Giller judges aren’t reading the same pages because Greenwood failed to make their Shortlist. One other Canadian novel I read and absolutely loved this year (The Difference by Marina Endicott) didn’t even make one Canadian literary award list at all. It couldn’t possibly have been submitted by its publisher then, because I can’t understand how this happened. But I guess it also goes to show that I seem to not be reading the same pages as these judging panels. :-(

Greenwood was completely wonderful. Even before I knew what it was going to be about, I knew I had to have it. That was because Michael Christie’s writing in If I Fall, If I Die was such that I simply surrendered myself over to it, so I was anticipating the same here for Greenwood. I was definitely not wrong there. This book would also make a lovely companion to Richard Powers’ The Overstory. Both are lyrical and gorgeous and pay beautiful homage to trees and nature and the desperate need for their preservation.

Feast your eyes on some of Christie’s writing:

As the flame passes from warm to hot in his hand, Harris inventories all that required to birth such a forest: whole oceans of rain and centuries of sunlight. The same sunlight that glinted upon the helmets of the Romans.

The same winds that carried the first explorers to this continent. Here are trees taller than twenty-storey buildings; trees that had already attained immensity when the first printing press rolled. Baudelaire called them “living pillars of eternity” and Harris agrees.

He detects notes of charred moss and boiling pitch, the perfume of torched wood.

Then comes the sound of fist-sized fir cones roasting like cobs of corn and the screeches of deer blundering about in the smoke, just audible over the growing crack and rumble of fire.

I have more marked, but you get the gist right? You’re in love with it too aren’t you? But just one more because it’s about book smell! ;-) 

And why do you think library books smell so completely different than the ones we own? Do they use a different paper for them? Or is it because so many people have touched them? Or maybe it’s the smell of all the library books on the shelves combined? Or is there some other reason?

Not only was Greenwood an homage to trees, it was this great and epic saga that took us through centuries of the Greenwood family and now that I’m done reading about them, I miss them all terribly. The closest I can compare similar feelings when reading Greenwood would be for the fantastically epic reading experience/journey I had with No Country by Kaylan Ray. The journey through historical eras like the Depression are just as exquisitely told here as they were in This Tender Land. Not only is the despair and destitution during the Depression so richly described, the destitution we’re faced with in the future is also well told and serves as an alarming warning.

It was all so good, so impressive, I didn’t want to stop reading. I was left with a serious book hangover after reading Greenwood. I hope you do as well when you read it – have you read it?

Oh I didn’t discuss the beauty of the book itself! It’s gorgeous! It is hefty, the edges are the rings in the trees, so that when you are reading the pages, they show stripes on each side of the page, the beginning of sections/years have distinct illustrations and each chapter has a tiny evergreen leaf. I adore books when they are printed so beautifully like this one.

I’ll leave you with a very poignant blurb from Alexander MacLeod:

This book is why we read books. Why we need books. Wildly inventive, structurally elegant, deeply felt, and so very wise. Greenwood is Michael Christie’s best work ever, and that’s saying something.

Are you reading it yet? Do you feel the way I do about this travesty of this not being on the Giller Shortlist (or taking the whole prize??)