The Story of the Forest by Linda Grant - review by Esme Bright

Esme Bright

Out of the Woods

The Story of the Forest


Virago 288pp 18.99

A fourteen-year-old Jewish girl walks into a forest one day in 1913 and sets a family’s history in motion. So begins Linda Grant’s luminous and thrillingly expansive novel in which Mina Mendel’s chance rendezvous with a young Bolshevik leads her and her brother to leave Latvia for Liverpool.

The folk-pastiche opening gives way to a sweeping history of a boisterous family. Despite anti-Semitism bubbling throughout, Mina’s family find prosperity and settle in the suburbs. Each page thrums with life and the spirited immigrant diaspora of Liverpool is painted with beautiful, detailed strokes: a bride is radiant with ‘a hectic, almost tubercular glow of accomplishment’.

The Mendels adapt to ‘this porridge land, this beige country’ and survive war, scandals and arguments. When Mina takes her final ragged breath at the novel’s close, her exultant memory of dancing in the forest has faded into family folklore. Yet Grant underlines how the fate of every Mendel

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