Harry Rutherford's Reviews > Green Mansions, A Romance of the Tropical Forest

Green Mansions, A Romance of the Tropical Forest by William Henry Hudson
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Jul 12, 2012

it was ok
Read in July, 2012

I read a reference to this book on a birding blog — Hudson was a founding member of the RSPB and many of the earliest bird records for Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens are thanks to him — and since it was available from Project Gutenberg, I was curious enough to download it and give it a try. Since it was described in that blog post as a rather daft Victorian romantic novel, I wasn't expecting much, but my curiosity was raised further by the introduction to the Gutenberg edition, written in 1915 by John Galsworthy, who said 'of all living authors—now that Tolstoi has gone I could least dispense with W.H. Hudson.'

I know Galsworthy has fallen out of fashion a bit (although not as far as Hudson), but still, that's a hell of a recommendation from a very good novelist.

Sadly, though, I have to agree that it is a rather daft book. It's about a man who, fleeing a failed coup in his native Venezuela, is deep in the jungle where he meets a strange, wild, birdlike girl living in harmony with nature. It is indeed a romance of a sort, although [spoiler alert] Hudson obviously realised that trying to end the story with the two of them in a stable long term relationship would be narratively tricky, so it doesn't end well.

It's not completely without interest — Hudson has a naturalist's eye, so the setting feels quite accuarate, and although the representation of the natives is uncomfortably patronising and racist, it's not nearly as bad as it could have been. The whole book builds up to the revealing of Rima the wild girl, and she's a striking creation, but once he's set the character up he doesn't really find anything interesting to do with her. And it is florid and overwritten. I only really finished it out of bloody-mindedness.
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Harry Rutherford There are a few volumes of his natural history memoirs on Project Gutenberg, I might download one of them — probably more likely to still be interesting, to me at least.


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