The first work from John Vaillant that I heard of was The Tiger, a story about the last great tiger in Siberia and of the mens who killed it. If the story looks interesting by itself, what was the most striking in this book was the amount of background and the depth of information in it; not only you learn about the story of how this beast was killed and why, but also the mindset of the people in this remote part of the world, the psychology of the animal, and much much more.
So that’s why, when I stumbled upon The Golden Spruce, I knew I’ll spend a great time.
The Great Spruce is Vaillant first book. The story is about why this tree, an oddity grown in the Queen Charlotte Island in British Columbia, Canada, was felled by Grant Hadwin, a logger-turned environmentalist, who wanted to make a point about the practices used by big logging compagnies like clearcutting, and raise awareness on the subject.
But, like other Vaillant’s books, The Golden Spruce is way more than that. It’s a thorough account of the logging industry, from the first english settlers to nowadays; a description of the state of native americans in the US and Canada; but also a depiction of the north american rainforest, or what it’s left of, and it’s population : the biggest and tallest trees on earth, the ferocity of the elements, it’s diversity, …
This is why I love Vaillant’s books. He goes way deeper than the initial story to give a proper explanation of the event : the context, the mindset of it’s actors, … And because it’s linked to the initial story, it’s compelling : you want to find more with him: why this tree was so special for the island inhabitants, why the logging industry is so aggressive, why Hadwin thought it was a good idea to do it, who he was and how he did it, …
After I’ve finished it, I was happy to find that I could get the same kind of feeling that I got last summer when I finished The Tiger : knowing about something fascinating I had no idea happened, and having a better account of how people think and act like they do.
This article is part of a series called The Book Corner, where I post short reviews of books that I found on the internet and thought they were worth sharing. If you’re interested, you can find more on this page.
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