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Ash before Oak

von Jeremy Cooper

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Ash before Oak is a novel in the form of a fictional journal written by a solitary man on a secluded Somerset estate. Ostensibly a nature diary, chronicling the narrator's interest in the local flora and fauna and the passing of the seasons, Ash before Oak is also the story of a breakdown told slantwise, and of the narrator's subsequent recovery through his reengagement with the world around him. Written in prose that is as precise as it is beautiful, winner of the 2018 Fitzcarraldo Editions Novel Prize, Jeremy Cooper's first novel in over a decade is a stunning investigation of the fragility, beauty and strangeness of life.… (mehr)
Kürzlich hinzugefügt voncaptainfez, Clarebot, dockevorkian, stillatim, tiggywinkle

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Precisely what I needed, when I needed it: soothing descriptions of non-threatening nature, with just enough 'but really, it's about depression!' to keep me from feeling like I was eating endless junk food. Now, that will not appeal to all that many people, I would have though. But Fitzcarraldo published it, so there must be a few people out there, like me, who would really like it if people just started publishing long novels in the form of journals, filled with lists of tree species and how to care for them appropriately. Also really inspired by Anglophilia. I can't wait until I (am rich enough to) move to the English countryside and spend my days pottering in the garden, only maybe without the depression. ( )
  stillatim | Oct 23, 2020 |
I'm gonna be honest, I'm totally sitting on the fence with this one. If I felt that this was purely a novel - ie. a work of fiction - then I would probably rate it higher. But, but... There is this palpable sense that our unnamed narrator, a 50-something man now living in Somerset, but who has lots of contacts in the art/antique world, is actually just a thinly-veiled portrait of the author himself. And as we read on, this lack of distinction started to irritate me. Either write and publish a journal that chronicles your life and struggles with mental health, or don't; but please don't pass it off as fiction, or auto-fiction, or whatever you want to call it.

The premise is intriguing, and the teasing out of facts through sideways allusions, or even omissions, did give the whole book a sense of fragility. The observations on nature were interesting, especially for a city-dweller like myself who, frankly, couldn't tell one variety of tree from another (I know, shame on me!). The very real sense that nature just gets on with it, takes everything in its stride - a ewe losing her lamb, or fallen trees after a storm - is in stark contrast to the suffering of our narrator, and of those he encounters. This paradox of the human condition is at the heart of the book, and the 'diary' entries were an attempt to be spontaneous - although they were sometimes a little too perfect, even the grammatical or factual errors seemed too deliberate at times.

So, overall I did get a lot out of the book, but I could not ever let go of the feeling that this is not a novel. What it is, however, is a worthy attempt to write about mental health issues, and that should be applauded. ( )
  Alan.M | Nov 1, 2019 |
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Ash before Oak is a novel in the form of a fictional journal written by a solitary man on a secluded Somerset estate. Ostensibly a nature diary, chronicling the narrator's interest in the local flora and fauna and the passing of the seasons, Ash before Oak is also the story of a breakdown told slantwise, and of the narrator's subsequent recovery through his reengagement with the world around him. Written in prose that is as precise as it is beautiful, winner of the 2018 Fitzcarraldo Editions Novel Prize, Jeremy Cooper's first novel in over a decade is a stunning investigation of the fragility, beauty and strangeness of life.

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