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Woodsburner By John Pipkin Tells Story Of Devastating Fire Set By Henry David Thoreau

June 28, 2014


No matter what else I read Woodsburner by John Pipkin will be one of the best books that I will have spent time with this year.  From the first paragraph to the last it was nothing but a pure delight that made me think, marvel at the writing and plotting, and smile many times along the way.

In short the novel revolves around a forest fire that Henry David Thoreau accidentally set in 1844.  If you are like me that alone is news,  but then John Pipkin takes the reader on nothing short of a brilliantly written journey that spans a day as we get to better know the inner moods and thinking of what we all will come to know as a thoughtful and insightful philosopher.

Before there is a Thoreau that we now know there was a young man who sought to find out what he wanted from life.  He knows he wishes more than making pencils in the family factory, and the events that unfold in the mind of Pipkin allow for the shape of Thoreau to take shape on the turning pages.

Every now and then I comment about plotting when reading a great book, but when it comes to Woodsburner the intricate weaving of charatcers with each other in ways they do not even realize is nothing short of masterful.

The richness of those that the fire connects with will make you wish the fire lasted a lot longer than it did as they are simply engaging and most entertaining.

We meet Oddmund Hus, a shy Norwegian farmhand who has fair skin and seems so apart from everyone else.  He is hopelessly dreaming of the wife who is married to the man he works for on a farm.  We meet Eliot Calvert who was in many ways my favorite character as he was a prosperous bookseller with a  dream of becoming a popular playwright.   Without giving too much away he thought the ending of his play should have a large fire that consumes the set to add emotional punch for the audience.  Then there is the opiate smoking Caleb Dowdy who preaches fire and brimstone and is simply too good not to savor in this remarkable book.

This is definitely a five-star event within the covers of this book!

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