Out of the Woods by Luke Turner - review by Grub Smith

Grub Smith

Epping & Grinding

Out of the Woods


Weidenfeld & Nicolson 271pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

Some victims of abuse find comfort in therapy, while others seek consolation through drugs, but Luke Turner discovered a far more interesting way to slay his demons. Damaged by childhood predators and finding his life unspooling into disarray, he sought to reconnect with the woods in Essex where he grew up. The result is this odd and elegant work: a discursive blend of local history, nature writing and ‘misery memoir’.

Turner was brought up in a religious family. As a boy, he was molested by a series of men in public lavatories. His youth was further complicated by the realisation that he was bisexual. This causes his adult relationships with women to founder on ‘hardwired compulsions … demanding to be answered … to feel the naked press of a man on top of me’. The B part of LGBT is perhaps the least well represented in literature, and he provides some intelligent insights into the havoc it can wreak on ‘normal’ life, the most pertinent being that to stay true to their desires, bisexuals are compelled to be non-monogamous.

When he breaks up with Alice, his latest girlfriend, he meets a homeless man who sleeps rough in Epping Forest. Inspired by this cheery Tom Bombadil character, who claims that living there has cured his depression, Turner begins to explore the undergrowth and work through his own issues. His reflections

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