I am not the ideal audience for this book. This is a book that takes the idea of fantasy very, very seriously. There is little love, or sense of joy in the magic; this is obsession and wildness, and while I’m a fan of pursuing passion and all things wild, this is the dreamscape extreme that occurred after a few too many tipples before bed.
Mythago Wood feels like a gothic fantasy, as if Jung and perhaps one of those Victorian spinsters got together and wove a tale about a small English family, ancient myths and estrangement. This is a book about obsession, first with the wood, then with self-creation, and finally with a woman who embodies both that wildness and creation.
The synopsis: Steven returns from the war to his family home, to recover and reunite with his brother, some time after his father’s death. He soon discovers his brother has been drawn into the mystery of the wood, and its not long before he is disappearing for weeks at a time while Steven keeps house and waits. Needless to say, it was only a matter of time before Steven enters the wood as well. Of course, there is a mysterious woman. In pursuing explanation and mapping of the wood, he heads to a local airstrip and hires Harry Keeton to fly over the wood. Without going too much farther, Harry becomes involved in the mystery of the wood as well.
I struggled with the disturbing undertone of the males’ fascination with Guiwenneth, the mysterious female. In each incarnation, she has been created out of the male mind, acting as the uncertain object of his affection. Steven is no exception, quickly becoming convinced he loves her, and that this time, it is their destiny. I get the underlying mythical undertones, and that psychology about creation, determination, etc., but frankly, it’s unpalatable reading about male obsession with his vision of what love is. Yawners. Steven is particularly ignorant and selfish when he initially pretends to be ‘conversing’ with her when it is clear that he has no idea what she is saying. I don’t have the book in front of me, but its only a short period of time before he starts muttering about ‘forever.’ As I said, I get that it’s an archetype. I’m just not that interesting in reading this dark, deeply sexist (woman=native=other) fantasy manifestation of Jungian theory.
For a world fantasy award, the writing surprised me; there is a great deal of ‘showing,’ as one of the brothers delves into the mystery of the wood, but because of the legends and the angle of psychological creation, there is a great deal of telling as well. I remember a long section of walking, an encounter or two, then the meeting of a mysterious shaman who explains all. Or at least half of it. Reminds me rather unfortunately of The Bridge Across Forever: A True Love Story and it’s ilk, usually discovered in New Age-y actualize yourself bookstores. Honestly a two-star read for me, maybe worth a bit more for its historical importance and underlying idea.