Friday, June 22, 2012

Classic Fantasy: Green Mansions by W.H. Hudson

Publisher: Airmont Classics
Date: 1904 (1965)
Format: paperback
Source: purchased used
Read: as part of the pre-college TBR cleanout/for A Victorian Celebration
Pages: 191
Reading time: four days

From GoodReads: A failed revolutionary attempt drives the hero of Hudson's novel to seek refuge in the primeval forests of south-western Venezuela. There, in the `green mansion' of the title, Abel encounters the wood-nymph Rima, the last survivor of a mysterious aboriginal race. The love that flowers between them is soon overshadowed by cruelty and sorrow. One of the acknowledged masters of natural history writing, W.H. Hudson forms an important link between nineteenth-century Romanticism and the twentieth-century ecological movement. First published in 1904 and a best-seller after its reissue a dozen years later, Green Mansions offers its readers a poignant meditation on the loss of wilderness, the dream of a return to nature, and the bitter reality of the encounter between savage and civilized man.

My review: As a fantasy novel, Green Mansions was an interesting read. Plot-wise, I didn't feel that the story was entirely cohesive, but I never felt like it was dragging or boring. The plot wasn't fast-paced or exciting, but it kept moving and stayed fairly engaging.

Meaning-wise, I missed most of the message about ecology and whatnot. I knew Hudson's other works all deal with natural history, and so the brief passages describing the flora and fauna of the forest weren't out of place, considering the author's main interests. Honestly, I picked up more on a vague religious undertone than I did on "the encounter between savage and civilized man" or "the dream of a return to nature." Certainly Abel is enchanted by the idyllic relationship between Rima and her environment, but I was usually more concerned with discovering Rima's mysterious origins (never very satisfactorily explained) than realizing any back-to-nature vibe.

Conclusion: An interesting example of Victorian fantasy, a nice read but ultimately vague in its intentions.

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