North Woods

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Pub Date 19 Sep 2023 | Archive Date 28 Sep 2023

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‘A monumental achievement. Relating the narrative of an entire country via a single plot of land, it sweeps the reader through hundreds of years and an array of protagonists with a deft, heartbreaking, idiosyncratic zeal. I loved it.’ Maggie O’Farrell


A young Puritan couple on the run. An English soldier with a fantastic vision. Inseparable twin sisters. A lovelorn painter and a lusty beetle. A desperate mother and her haunted son. A ruthless con man and a stalking panther. Buried secrets. Madness, dreams and hope.

All are connected. The dark, raucous, beautiful past is very much alive.

Exhilarating, daring and playful, NORTH WOODS will change the way you see the world.

‘A monumental achievement. Relating the narrative of an entire country via a single plot of land, it sweeps the reader through hundreds of years and an array of protagonists with a deft...

Advance Praise

'A monumental achievement . . . I loved it' Maggie O'Farrell

'I emerged from this book as though from an enchanted forest, covered in leaves and changed by what I had seen there. Electrifying' Tess Gunty, author of THE RABBIT HUTCH

'A magisterial mosaic . . . truly triumphant' Booklist

'Each arc is beautifully, heartbreakingly conveyed, stitching together subtle connections across time. This astonishes' Publishers Weekly, starred review

'Readers will find themselves in an entrancing fictional realm where the human, natural, and supernatural mingle, all captured in the author's effortlessly virtuosic prose' Kirkus

'Pure brilliance' Anthony Marra, New York Times bestselling author of MERCURY PICTURES PRESENTS

'A monumental achievement . . . I loved it' Maggie O'Farrell

'I emerged from this book as though from an enchanted forest, covered in leaves and changed by what I had seen there. Electrifying' Tess...

Available Editions

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ISBN 9781399809283
PRICE £16.99 (GBP)

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Average rating from 79 members

Featured Reviews

I feel breathless, speechless, almost lost for words. Daniel Mason has taken all the good words, put them in North Woods, and who am I to judge his choices? But I dare a little:
This is a dream of a novel, full of enchanting characters, and packed with the visual magic of Western Massachusetts, through centuries of birth, life, death and rebirth. The author is surely the finest prose stylist working in the English language.
Long before I had finished I was aching with emotion, my empathy for characters such as Mary and Alice, triumphant in their tragedy, was overpowering and hypnotic.
Combining all the rich details of endurance and accomplishment with romance and myth this is a journey of self-discovery and epiphany for author, those in the narrative, and reader.

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North Woods by Daniel Mason is an immersive literary experience that effortlessly transports the reader through the tumultuous history of a single plot of land in New England. This book encapsulates such an expansive narrative, yet manages to weave intricate, personal stories of its diverse characters spanning hundreds of years.

The richly developed characters, from the young Puritan couple on the run to a haunted son with buried secrets, evoke a sense of empathy and attachment as their lives unfold within the walls of this secluded house in the woods. Each character's story provides unique perspectives on love, ambition, family dynamics, and survival amidst varying historical settings.

Mason's masterful command of the language, vivid descriptions, and captivating dialogue create an atmosphere that is as lush and enchanting as the mysterious woods themselves. The emotional threads connecting each character are delicately braided, revealing centuries-old patterns filled with madness, dreams, and hope.

North Woods is a monumental achievement that mirrors the depth and complexity of human nature against the backdrop of an ever-changing world. The seamless blend of historical events, raw emotion, and haunting tales leaves a lasting impact long after the final page has been turned.

A must-read for fans of epic storytelling and those who appreciate literary prowess.

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Daniel Mason's North Woods explores the cycles of life and death and the interconnectedness of past and present. This dazzling novel could be seen as a book of short stories but that does it a disservice and it is most impactful viewed as a whole. One of the aspects that make the novel so compelling is that is not clear at times how past and present are connected which makes this quite a suspenseful engaging read. I appreciated the humorous aspects to the novel and admired how the author captured the voices of so many different characters and times. The weaving of the dead and nature into the story as characters was very effective and served to reinforce the idea of connectedness. Readers of Ian McEwan may like this book.

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Filled my messy heart with joy

What an extraordinary spider’s web of a book this is

Danial Mason has written a remarkably unlinear – whilst still being sequential, history of a small piece of New England

Told through many voices, ostensibly beginning at some point after Dissenters first came to set up colonies in America, and ending at some undated future time, this is a history not only of humanity, but of trees, bears, birds, wild cats, lusty beetles, seeds, fungal spores, buildings, apples . Not only all that lives, but also, of all that has lived.

Though each ‘story’ starts afresh, the past increasingly imprints on the present, through the corporality of our lives, the objects we surround ourselves with, the histories they hold.

The sense of everything seeping out of nice tidy boundaries, beginnings and endings is intensified by the fact that these stories of different people inhabiting a constantly extending house in a remote and forested place, are broken up by illustrations, line drawings, folk songs which seem to be telling the stories of characters we met earlier – and indeed, may be coming from ‘beyond the veil’ Boundaries between the living and the dead grow both thin and vibrant.

Reading this rather felt like discovering some rather beautiful, but perhaps dusty, a bit battered, piece of furniture in some junk shop or car boot sale. On taking it home and cleaning it up, it turns out to be something astonishing, containing secret drawers, which open to reveal other boxes, in fact a nest of boxes. Each opened secret reveals more.

I fell into the rabbit hole of Mason’s glorious, beautiful book and can only urge prospective readers that you need to make your own absorbed, enchanting, enchanted journey.

I would not want to spoil it by telling you who and what you will meet.

This is history, geography, cultural history, horticulture, apples, sheep, an exploration of painting, poetry, music, love both romantic and familial, death, and glorious eccentricity. And quite a lot of joyful and abandoned sex. In rather surprising encounters!

It is the first time I have come across Daniel Mason, and I’m delighted there is a back catalogue to explore. I received this as a digital ARC. I think the wood book will be a particular joy, for the illustrations

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The 400-year history of a house in the woods of New England, told through its many inhabitants..

A greenfingered soldier, a lovelorn artist, a crime reporter, an elm bark beetle. The human and non-human cast of characters in North Woods show how we are interconnected with each other and with the Earth.

Mason's writing is full of humanity and wonder of nature.

Inventive, mystical and beautifully written.

My thanks to NetGalley and Penguin for the ARC.

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What a clever book! Daniel Mason tells the history of modern America from the early settlers to the present and even a dip into the future. Short chapters capture a moment in time for a range of characters as the clock ticks away the years on the same small patch of land. Understated and beautiful.

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This is the best book I have read in a long time. It is a beautiful tale of a house, it’s inhabitants and its surroundings over roughly 200 years. It is told almost in a series of short stories that interlink and which are punctuated by images, poems and songs. Even the insect life are given a voice as they spread seeds and viruses that shape the surrounding area. The writing is exquisite and I didn’t want the book to come to an end!

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Flipping heck! I’m just readjusting from being pulled sideways through a literary undergrowth. North Woods is the reason why I’m bleary-eyed today after havinghavinghaving to finish reading this story.
A story about a yellow house through the centuries. Simple as. But so not. “Everything but the kitchen sink” doesn’t even come near the complexity and richness of this plot, its winding of multiple tendrils like some long-forgotten bindweed and its intertwining looping storylines that will at times necessitate the use of a notepad.
It is a ghost story of sorts, but subtle in its eerieness of atmospheric poetry. I won’t spoiler the plot, it really needs to be discovered and savoured by the reader.
Simply enchanting!

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‘North Woods’ is a beautifully constructed novel. Set in New England, it pays tribute to the power and endurance of the natural world, the imaginings and creativity of men and women, and the hopes and dreams that people have in common through the ages.
Daniel Mason is incredibly skilled in capturing his characters’ personalities through their voices as well as through their actions. Whilst he focuses on a singular place, all the people who inhabit it are memorable for their unique relationships with the surroundings and the echoes they leave as we are led through the centuries. A wonderful, poetical read which celebrates what it means to be human.
My thanks to NetGalley and John Murray Press for a copy of this book in exchange for a fair review.

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This novel is so remarkable and it left me stunned by its beauty. A book, I suppose you could say, with a plot. There is no main character, no villain. What we have is a house and a wood/forest that we watch for 400 years. It is the history of the land, the house. We have snapshots of some of those who pass through, who inhabit the land, the house, from a pair of spinster twins to a crime writer; from a squirrel to a lusty beetle! We have their stories and we also have illustrations and folk ballads. This is a book that weaves the stories of people and nature together and you see the interconnectedness of everything. The nature writing is sublime - so evocative. There is everything you could possibly want within these pages, art, sex, beauty, supernatural, we even drop into a dystopian landscape. You will go through a whole range of emotions as you read about those that rest upon this plot of land - I loved the sisters' story and the final story amazed me. And as for the last line .... I just don't have to words.

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A beautiful, mesmerising story set on a small plot of land over several centuries in New England woods. A very clever story that totally engrossed me from the first page to the last. Gorgeous and highly recommended.

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Wonderful, lyrical story telling the story of North Woods - the land, the trees, the buildings and the residents over the centuries. Told through a mixture of straight prose, poetry, song, letters, newspaper articles etc, Mason builds a thorough depiction of a corner of Massachusetts. Much as history builds in layers, the different layers of North Woods are exposed, with a palimpsest feel as the earlier inhabitants can still be seen through their actions and their impact on the land. At times almost a ghost story, especially in the way emotions and their impact can linger over the generations.
North Woods is a masterpiece.

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Reading this book is a breathtaking, absorbing experience. You have to wonder at the skill of the writing, the thread of a story that is sustained through the centuries, and the sheer beauty of the ending - respect due to a master storyteller.

All that and nothing really happens. A house sustains, its inhabitants come and go, and are always surrounded by the beauty and the terror of the external world that endures. It's difficult to explain the pull of the book, it would be unforgiveable not to read it.

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Good heavens, this is a staggeringly good book. I was expecting ghosts and atmospheric thrills. Maybe the odd gasp here and there. Instead I got a lyrical, many layered, absolutely riveting story where insects and even fungi are important characters. There are ghosts- great ghosts. There are genuine jaw dropping moments, one in particular. It's one of the best books I've read in ages. 6/5!

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