Subtitled “On the Trail of the Green Man”. While I wouldn’t go quite so far as to say this is misleading, this is a book about the Green Man in about the same way that Life of Pi is about a tiger on a boat. Rather than being the summary of facts, findings and insights discovered as a result of pursuing Green Man imagery and archetypes it relates the pursuit itself and is, to an extent, more like a journal than the anthropological academia or folklore I had been expecting.
This is not at all to its detriment. The book veers wildly from pure (and entertaining) storytelling to sometimes seemingly random (but fascinating) tangents, meandering from diligent fact-finding to deep philosophy, personal opinion to political analysis and historical appraisal to future trajectories. There is A LOT going on in the 280-odd pages, some of which was familiar territory, some of which prompted new ideas or different perspectives and a reasonable chunk that I would definitely have to revisit to get a proper understanding of.
Whenever I consider it objectively I’m conscious that the disparate segments and short fragments are the sort of style that normally puts me off and that I struggle to stick with – what I usually term as being “too bitty” – but for whatever reason (certainly one I’ve yet to determine) I didn’t feel like this when I was actually reading it; each section was interesting and compelling in its own right and intriguing me to find out what might – completely unpredictably – bubble up next.
Just to be clear, the Green Man is not by any means absent or ignored but he is principally the catalyst, the sometimes elusive but ever-present escort, beckoning you further along but never quite directing your path.
This is a book about the journey rather than the destination, and it was one heck of a trip.