In The Forest, Edward Rutherfurd, whose greatly admired Sarum and London have captivated millions of readers, now unfolds the saga of nine turbulent centuries in the life of the quintessential English heartland: the New Forest.
The New Forest lies in a vast bowl scooped from England's southern coast. To its west runs the river Avon, from Sarum to the harbor at Christchurch, and to its east the port of Southampton. In the heart of the New Forest itself, some one hundred thousand acres of forest and heath sweep down to the Solent water and the Isle of Wight and overlook the English Channel just beyond.
From the time of the Norman Conquest to the present day, the New Forest has remained a mysterious, powerful, almost mythical place. It is here that Saxon and Norman kings rode forth with their hunting parties, and where William the Conqueror's son Rufus was mysteriously killed. The mighty oaks of the forest were used to build the ships for Admiral Nelson's navy, and the fishermen who lived in Christchurch and Lymington helped Sir Francis Drake fight off the Spanish Armada. The New Forest is the perfect backdrop for the families who people this epic story -- a story that makes clear the connections between the dark, dangerous, sensuous life of the primeval forest and the genteel life of Georgian and Regency society.
There are well-born ladies and lowly woodsmen, sailors and smugglers, witches and Cistercian monks, who live in the lovely abbey of Beaulieu. The Forest's Lady Adela is the cousin of Walter Tyrrell, who is blamed for the death of Rufus, son of the Conqueror. There is Brother Adam of Beaulieu, who is content with his service to God until a poaching incident puts him in contact with an intriguing young woman named Mary Furzey. There is the merchant Totton family of the harbor town of Lymington, and the Penruddocks and Lisles of Moyles Court. The feuds, wars, loyalties, and passions of many hundreds of years reach their climax in a crime that shatters the decorous society of Bath in the days of Jane Austen.
Edward Rutherfurd is a master storyteller whose sense of place and of character -- whether fictional or historical -- is at its most vibrant in The Forest. Like Sarum and London, it is a gripping novel of living history.
The deer started. She trembled for a moment, then listened.
A grey-black spring night still lay like a blanket over the sky. Along the edge of the wood, in the damp air, the peaty scent of the heath beyond mingled with the faint mustiness of last year's fallen leaves. It was quiet, as if the whole island of Britain were waiting for something to happen in the silence before the dawn.
Then suddenly, a skylark started singing in the dark. Only he had seen the hint of paleness on the horizon.
The deer turned her head, not satisfied. Something was approaching.
Puckle made his way through the wood. There was no need to move silently. As his feet brushed the leaves or snapped a twig, he might have been mistaken for a badger, wild pig or some other denizen of the Forest.
Away on his left, the screech of a tawny owl careened through the dark tunnels and sweeping arches of the oaks.
Puckle: was it his father, or his grandfather, or someone further ...
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