The White Forest: Book summary and reviews of The White Forest by Adam McOmber

The White Forest

A Novel

By Adam McOmber

The White Forest
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  • Published in USA  Sep 2012,
    320 pages.

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Book Summary

In the bestselling tradition of The Night Circus and Sarah Waters' The Little Stranger, Adam McOmber's hauntingly original debut novel follows a young woman in Victorian England whose peculiar abilities help her infiltrate a mysterious secret society.

Young Jane Silverlake lives with her father at a crumbling family estate on the edge of Hampstead Heath. Jane has a secret - an unexplainable gift that allows her to see the souls of manmade objects - and this talent isolates her from the outside world. Her greatest joy is wandering the wild heath with her neighbors, Madeline and Nathan. But as the friends come of age, their idyll is shattered by the feelings both girls develop for Nathan, and by Nathan's interest in a cult led by a charismatic mystic popular with London's elite.

A year later, Nathan has vanished, and Jane is forced to untangle the events that led up to his disappearance. As a sinister truth emerges, she realizes that she must call on her dark gift – the only thing that can now save Nathan.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"McOmber creates a convoluted supernatural mystery that bombards the senses with rich dialogue and imagery; but the story’s flow is often lost amid lengthy explanations about motive and meaning, and the narrative may ultimately prove difficult for some to follow." - Kirkus

"McOmber’s debut is deliberately written and heavy with atmosphere, evoking the dark weight of doomed love as well as the spiritualist craze that fascinated so many Victorians." - Publishers Weekly

"In his clever and beguiling pastiche of a first novel, McOmber explores the nexus between the natural and the artificial, the intangible and the concrete in coal-fouled Victorian London.…Commandingly erudite and imaginative, McOmber meshes myth, the occult, and nineteenth-century technological advances in an uncanny and captivating gothic tale that aligns ancient mysteries with the startling revelations of newly harnessed electricity, and rigid social and sexual mores with epic yearning." - Booklist

"The White Forest drips with the dark and gothic chills of Victorian London. Adam McOmber will keep you up nights with this eerie tale that grafts mystery to myth. A spooky and original novel." - Keith Donohue, author of The Stolen Child and Centuries of June

"The White Forest reminds me of what I love about H.P. Lovecraft: Adam McOmber's imagery is so visceral and strangely real, and his story so inventive: a plain old narrative is hard enough to pull off on its own, but creating a whole new world within thereality of Victorian England? Wow." - Daniel Wallace, author of Big Fish

"What other novelist could take a Victorian gothic setting, the most obscure elements of medieval cosmology, a sinister secret society, and an old-fashioned love triangle to produce, in tautly elegant prose, something so delightful and utterly unique? The White Forest is much more than a novel: it is a magic lantern, casting dark and flickering pictures from other worlds. I wish I had written it myself." - Camille DeAngelis, author of Petty Magic and Mary Modern

"Mr. McOmber's economy of words drew me in and kept me turning pages...The novel's gothic style only adds to the delicious tension of the story, and the reader can actually lose him/herself in the atmospheric telling of a tale that could very well be turned into a film." - Book Hog

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Reader Reviews

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Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Laura S.
A Gothic Romance!
I loved the character of Jane Silverlake and was fascinated by her strange powers. She is, at turns, sympathetic and frightening. Her relationship with Maddy and Nathan was equally interesting. Adam McOmber's depiction of Victorian London was just slightly to the left of reality...wonderfully strange and engrossing.

Rated 2 of 5 of 5 by Eloise F. (Poway, CA)
A disappointing read
I struggled to finish this and did, but only so I could complete my review. At first I enjoyed the writing and depiction of the era. Unfortunately the plot was tedious and ultimately incomprehensible. I'd like to see the author tell a story that is not so dark and takes advantage of his abilities. But he did not do so here.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Mark O. (Wenatchee, WA)
A dark and otherworldly Dickens
I’ve wondered why Victorian England seems such a natural setting for fictional explorations of the darker and less traveled parts of our minds. The “White Forest” is a strong addition to this tradition, with the welcome haunts: old manor house on the moors, slums of London, madness and decadence). There is a fascinating and chilling cosmology, something truly “other.” This is preeminently a coming-of-age story, of three young adults and the bonding that can be more than friendship. The plot gallops along at horse-drawn carriage pace but there are lyrical speed-bumps, nicely written prose that many readers will stop to underline or highlight.

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Esther L. (Newtown, Pa)
A Dark and Gothic Tale
An editor for Simon and Schuster included a letter in the pre publication copy of The White Forest in which she lamented the fact that she lost out on the chance to publish Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus. She stated that she would never love another book in quite the same way but then The White Forest hit her desk. You can't compare the two book at all. The Night Circus was a magical, imaginative, romantic and beautifully descriptive novel. I found The White Forest as cold and stone like as the all white Empyrean world imagined by the author. This dark and gothic tale kept my interest and I liked it but recommended that my book club read The Night Circus, a book I really loved.

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Joyce W. (Rochester, MN)
Potential never realized
This writer has a lot of potential. The White Forest is very readable; the setting is great. I could tell it wasn't my style of book but wanted to give it a chance. The ending was really disappointing. Nothing was really explained, and you really didn't know what happened to everyone. Too mystical for me.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by C.K.Dexter
Very well done
Don't usually take the time to write reviews, but was very impressed with this novel. Hard to believe this is a first effort. The language and the detail are excellent. Some of the reviews here have given details of the plot away, which I think is a shame. McOmber creates a creepy atmosphere that did make this book a page turner for me. Highly recommend!

...10 more reader reviews

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More Information

Adam McOmber teaches creative writing at Columbia College Chicago and is the associate editor of the literary magazine Hotel Amerika. Stories from his collection, This New and Poisonous Air, have been shortlisted for Best American Fantasy and nominated for two Pushcart Prizes in 2012. Visit him at www.adammcomber.com

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