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60+ Novels to Bring You Back to Nature

From action adventures that see characters battle elemental forces of nature, to eco-themed dystopian novels, to comfort reads set in the countryside, the natural world looms large in many world-class novels. Think the menace of the moors in Wuthering Heights. The omnipresent influence of the river in The Mill on the Floss. The entwining of environment and character in Thomas Hardy’s novels. The tropical forests and encroaching mountains of Wide Sargasso Sea

For historic fiction with added environmental atmosphere, Eowyn Ivey’s The Snow Child comes hugely recommended. Set in the Alaskan wilderness in the 1920s, it’s suffused in the otherworldliness of the Russian fairy tale that inspired it and sees a childless couple struggling with grief for their lost baby when a sparkle of soulful magic arrives with the first snowfall of winter. Or how about Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things? Set in the nineteenth-century, it follows the extraordinary journeys of a female botanist, taking in London, Peru and Tahiti along the way. Another historic gem that exudes the splendour of the natural world is Eva Ibbotson’s Journey to the River Sea. A classic of children’s literature, this Amazon-set adventure has the power to excite and charm readers of all ages - guaranteed.

If real-life stories are more your bag, try Beryl Bainbridge’s The Birthday Boys, an involving fictional account of Scott’s attempt to reach the South Pole. Ecologically-minded literary fiction fans would do well to try Maja Lunde’s The History of Bees, or Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake. Then there’s the epic ride of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, an emotional father-and-son-story set in ravaged post-apocalyptic America.

Among my personal favourites are Nick Lake’s In Darkness, an enthralling novel that slips between the aftermath of the earthquake that devastated Haiti in 2010 and the 18th-century revolution spearheaded by Toussaint l’Ouverture, a visionary slave turned leader. A 2020 treat I can’t stop recommending is Sharks in the Time of Saviours. This majestically written family saga is infused with Hawaiian mythology, the power of the sea, and a sense of shifting landscape as the sugar cane industry declines.

If you fancy dipping into the natural world for a few moments at a time, try A Nature Poem for Every Day of the Year and its companion, A Nature Poem for Every Night of the Year. Beautifully curated (and presented), both collections include evocative nature-themed poems by esteemed heavyweights like Dickinson, Betjeman, Tennyson and Wordsworth alongside lesser-known writers.

All manner of nature and landscape await in the collection that follows - arctic tundra, humid jungles, strawberry-scented meadows, and much more besides. Read on to explore them all.

The Signature of All Things

The Signature of All Things

Author: Elizabeth Gilbert Format: Paperback Release Date: 03/07/2014

From the moment Alma Whittaker steps into the world, everything about life intrigues her. Instilled with an unquenchable sense of wonder by her father, a botanical explorer and the richest man in the New World, Alma is raised in a house of luxury and curiosity. It is not long before she becomes a gifted botanist in her own right. But as she flourishes and her research takes her deeper into the mysteries of evolution, the man she comes to love draws her in the opposite direction - into the realm of the spiritual, the divine and the magical. The Signature of All Things soars across the globe of the nineteenth century, from London and Peru, to Philadelphia, Tahiti and beyond. Peopled with extraordinary characters along the way, most of all it has an unforgettable heroine in Alma Whittaker.

ebook of the month
Wide Sargasso Sea

Wide Sargasso Sea

Author: Jean Rhys, Andrea Ashworth Format: Hardback Release Date: 06/10/2016

Inspired by Charlotte Bronte, Jean Rhys turns one of her stories on its head and creates an absolute masterpiece in her sublimely crisp reimaging of Jane Eyre. Through making Bertha, the "madwoman in the attic", her narrator, Rhys makes and powerful statement about agency, and who gets to have their story told.    Born into the oppressive, colonialist society of 1930s Jamaica, white Creole heiress Antoinette Cosway meets a young Englishman who is drawn to her innocent beauty and sensuality. After their marriage, however, disturbing rumours begin to circulate which poison her husband against her. Caught between his demands and her own precarious sense of belonging, Antoinette is inexorably driven towards madness, and her husband into the arms of another novel's heroine. This classic study of betrayal, a seminal work of postcolonial literature, is Jean Rhys' brief, beautiful masterpiece. Read our 'Book-aneers of the Caribbean' listicle to find more unforgettable books by Caribbean writers. Visit our 'Women's Words - 60+ works of feminist-minded fiction' to explore our collection of feminist-minded fiction from around the world, and across centuries.

Once Upon a River

Once Upon a River

Author: Bonnie Jo Campbell Format: Paperback Release Date: 25/10/2012

After the violent death of her father, in which she is complicit, Margo takes to the Stark River in her boat, with only a few supplies and a biography of Annie Oakley, in search of her vanished mother. But the river, Margo's childhood paradise, is a dangerous place for a young woman travelling alone, and she must be strong to survive, using her knowledge of the natural world and her ability to look unsparingly into the hearts of those around her. Her river odyssey through rural Michigan becomes a defining journey, one that leads her beyond self-preservation and to deciding what price she is willing to pay for her choices.

debut of the month
The Snow Child

The Snow Child

Author: Eowyn Ivey Format: Hardback Release Date: 01/02/2012

Winner of the Specsavers National Book Awards 'International Author of the Year' 2012. A bewitching tale of heartbreak and hope set in 1920s Alaska. Jack and Mabel have staked everything on making a fresh start for themselves in a homestead 'at the world's edge' in the raw Alaskan wilderness. But as the days grow shorter, Jack is losing his battle to clear the land, and Mabel can no longer contain her grief for the baby she lost many years before. The evening the first snow falls, their mood unaccountably changes. In a moment of tenderness, the pair are surprised to find themselves building a snowman - or rather a snow girl - together. The next morning, all trace of her has disappeared, and Jack can't quite shake the notion that he glimpsed a small figure - a child? - running through the spruce trees in the dawn light. And how to explain the little but very human tracks Mabel finds at the edge of their property? Written with the clarity and vividness of the Russian fairytale from which it takes its inspiration, The Snow Child is an instant classic - the story of a couple who take a child into their hearts, all the while knowing they can never truly call her their own.

ebook of the month

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