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  • Writer's pictureThe Bossy Bookworm

Review of North Woods by Daniel Mason

Mason's novel isn't simply a historical fiction story linked through timelines. The book builds to be an often-sinister, Gothic-feeling story with various interconnected repercussions, discoveries, and punishments; ghosts able to enact revenge; and, in the end, for select characters, a surprising and hopeful opportunity for a new start.

...she has found that the only way to understand the world as something other than a tale of loss is to see it as a tale of change.

Mason's newest novel tells the story of a New England house in the woods by tracking those who live in it over the centuries.

But North Woods isn't a charming historical fiction novel. While Mason's various timelines and myriad inhabitants show the interconnectedness of us all and celebrate the wonders of the wild world surrounding us, they do so with a significant, dark undercurrent that grows in prominence as the story progresses.

The feeling here is Gothic, as those who are wronged come back to haunt certain later inhabitants and are able to shift events to their will. Some characters are able to see apparitions, while others are not, and by the end of the book, Mason has established the magical-realism link to the past that some protagonists are able to experience.

Mason's characters range from a young couple in love, escaping their rigid Puritanical community; to an English soldier who escapes battle to grow apples; to spinster twins coping with wartime struggles; to a panther who takes refuge in the house; in addition to others, and the multiple ties, whether prominent or minor. between these characters are eventually made clear.

North Woods draws variously sinister, tenuous, or gripping links between timelines: of dark deeds and revenge; mental illness and the ability to perceive spectral beings; and a connection to the land and an inability to leave the crumbling house.

North Woods explores cycles of nature and human behavior. The tone is spooky and the story moves at a measured pace. I was interested in the ultimate connections and outcomes and I appreciated the story and particularly Mason's gorgeous writing (the final chapter is a particular knockout), but I did take a long time to get through this one.

Do you have any Bossy thoughts about this book?

Daniel Mason is also the author of The Piano Tuner, A Far Country, The Winter Soldier, and A Registry of My Passage Upon the Earth.


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