Wild Wood

Written by Posie Graeme-Evans
Review by Tracey Warr

Just before the marriage of Prince Charles and Diana in 1981, Jesse travels from Australia to London. Distracted by her discovery that she is adopted, she steps into the path of a motorbike and wakes to find herself on a hospital ventilator in the care of neurologist, Rory Brandon. Rory is surprised when Jesse starts drawing images of a place he knows, that she has never been to: Hundredfield, a castle on the Scottish Borders, owned by his friend Alicia, and where he grew up. He works with Jesse through hypnosis and takes her to the castle to fathom the mystery. Has her brain injury made her a savant? What can explain her drawings, and the second personality that emerges during their hypnosis sessions?

In the parallel historical story weaving around Jesse and Rory’s experiences, Hundredfield, in the 11th century, is a grim fortress held by the third generation of Normans, three brothers, facing down the disgruntled, dispossessed Saxons surrounding them. When Godefroi, the oldest brother, marries a strange mute woman found naked in the woods, the peasants’ fear and fury boils over and Bayard, the youngest brother, must solve the puzzle of his brother’s wife and defend the castle from brutal invaders.

Posie Graeme-Evans slips the novel skilfully between the two eras, effectively building up suspense, weaving plausible facts and relationships around ancient myths and beliefs about the forest. The historical story is particularly gripping and peopled by men and women who ring a little truer than the contemporary cast. There are patches of staccato writing where the book reads more like a play script than a narrative, but these are minor quibbles. Wild Wood is fabulously researched, addictively plotted, and not a book you want to put down once you are immersed in the world of Hundredfield.