Jeffrey Keeten's Reviews > Mythago Wood

Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock
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Mar 14, 2012

it was amazing
Recommended to Jeffrey by: Terry (Dulac3)
Read from May 10 to 16, 2012

I accepted the notebook. "My life is full of diaries."

Steven Huxley had just been handed the diary of his sidekick companion Harry Keeton. I am personally fond of Harry because our names are one letter away from being the same Keeton/Keeten. I am actually an impostor, my great great grandfather Thomas Newton Keaton changed his name to Keeten when he was conscripted into the Confederate army. Family lore states that he had a dispute with his older brother Major William Henry Harrison Keaton and that had caused the name change. So despite the fact that I am going to be talking about the Huxley family a lot in this review, because they are the designated heroes of this book, I think we all know that Harry is the understated, but true hero of this tale.

Harry's diary was not the first diary that had impacted Steven's life. The first was written by his father George Huxley. Steven has just returned to the family home after convalescing in France from a bullet wound received in the war. He expects to find his brother, Christian, who is recently married, happily luxuriating in domestic bliss. Instead Steven finds a neurotic brother obsessed with Ryhope Woods, a three mile square section of pristine old world forest that has never been properly explored since the last Ice Age.

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This gloomy, compelling stand of forest butts up against the family home, and had also been the obsession of their father. Steven finds Christian's wife in a shallow grave with an arrow through her eye. In the immortal words of Kevin Bacon in the movie Tremors What the hell is going on? I mean what the hell is going on?

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Christian in an attempt to explain what IS going on to Steven has him read their father's diary which is filled with stories and observations that barely make sense. Christian disappears into the woods and each time he reappears he is a different, less civilized, unrecognizable form of the brother Steven knew.

Robert Holdstock was a student of the Carl Jungian theory of the archetype hero. Jung defined his concept of the archetype as a formula that is the result of "countless experiences of our ancestors".

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Ryhope Woods is full of mythological creatures, familiar heroes such as Robin Hood, and Hercules, but also mythological creatures that existed before written memory. They are the manifestation of our collective memories of heroes that have been encoded into our unconscious mind by the memories and experiences of our ancestors. As Christian, Steven and Harry spend more time in the woods mythagos are being formed from their own unconscious minds. They exist as ghosts at the peripheral of their vision, but the longer they stay in the woods the more substantial these manifestations become.

Did I mention there is a girl? She is called Guiwenneth. All three Huxley men become intoxicated with her. "Her face was quite startling, pale-skinned, slightly freckled. Her hair was brilliant auburn, and tumbled in unkempt, wind-swept masses about her shoulders. I would have expected her eyes to be bright green, but they were a depthless brown. Her arms and legs were thin, but the muscles were wiry; a fine blonde down covered her calves and I noticed that her knees were badly scarred." Not exactly the typical girl next door that I had a crush on in high school. "Guiwenneth had a woodland, animal aroma that was startlingly unpleasant, yet strangely erotic." She does seem to exude a potent musk that the Huxley men were particularly susceptible to. As the story unfolds we discover that the father, though he had died, has merged with a large angry mythical creature from ancient times. An epic battle between the brothers and the father unfolds for the possession of the girl.

I'm having to hold myself back from giving away too many details. For only 252 pages this book manages to convey an epic story. There are many layers and I'm sure I missed some key points. I can see myself rereading this book in a few years and gleaning more wonderful insights. I have a feeling that the books in the series build on each other and my appreciation for the first one will only deepen as I read the rest of the series. Highly recommended to those that like a heavy dose of Jung with their fantasy. The book is elegantly written, and does not bog down with weighty psychological preponderance, but you will find yourself needing to pause in your reading ever so often so the blocks in your brain have a chance to shuffle.
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02/15/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-27 of 27) (27 new)

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Terry Nice!


Jeffrey Keeten Terry wrote: "Nice!"

I'm hoping to get time to start it over lunch. Thanks for the recommend on this one.


Terry No problem, I hope you like it.


Richard Derus Oh good! I don't need to review it now!


Jeffrey Keeten Richard wrote: "Oh good! I don't need to review it now!"

I thought the rule of thumb was that a book has never been properly reviewed until Richard's review appears.


Richard Derus Heh. Well, my review is just a pointer to yours, so it's appeared and credit has been assigned where it's due.

*sharpens flensing knife* Now, as for my uncontrollable jealousy...


Jeffrey Keeten Richard wrote: "Heh. Well, my review is just a pointer to yours, so it's appeared and credit has been assigned where it's due.

*sharpens flensing knife* Now, as for my uncontrollable jealousy..."


Thanks Richard! The flensing knives with the long handles look especially lethal.


message 8: by Melki (new) - added it

Melki So weird - I just added this to my list the other day.

And jolly good show working Kevin Bacon into you review!


Jeffrey Keeten Melki wrote: "So weird - I just added this to my list the other day.

And jolly good show working Kevin Bacon into you review!"


That movie just kills me every time I watch it. The parodies of rednecks in the movie are hilarious.


message 10: by Melki (new) - added it

Melki My kids have the boxed set.


message 11: by Steve (new)

Steve You make this sound very tempting, Jeffrey.

You've also given a new meaning to "Linking the Bacon".


Jeffrey Keeten Steve wrote: "You make this sound very tempting, Jeffrey.

You've also given a new meaning to "Linking the Bacon"."


There is a lot to explore in this slender volume. I think you would like it and I'm not even related to Holdstock. Yes, I couldn't help putting Bacon in my review. On Top Chef, which I don't watch anymore, they used to say Bacon makes everything taste better.


message 13: by B0nnie (new) - added it

B0nnie I like the description of Guiwenneth. An aside: the word depthless really confuses me. Very shallow or deep, deep, deep? It's like the Payless shoe store. Either no paying is going on at all, or one is merely paying a smaller amount.


Jeffrey Keeten B0nnie wrote: "I like the description of Guiwenneth. An aside: the word depthless really confuses me. Very shallow or deep, deep, deep? It's like the Payless shoe store. Either no paying is going on at all, or on..."

Depthless also confused my spell checker. Her eyes I guess go on and on forever. You could sink a aircraft carrier into those eyes.


message 15: by [deleted user] (new)

You are not only a fine writer and fast reader--you are one hell of a tough son of a bitch.


Jeffrey Keeten Steve wrote: "You are not only a fine writer and fast reader--you are one hell of a tough son of a bitch."

I do believe you have just written the perfect words to be etched on my tombstone (hopefully I won't need them for 50 years or so). Thank you my friend.


message 17: by knig (new)

knig 'Did I mention there is a girl? She is called Guiwenneth'

Random thought of the day: why is it that if there is a Robin Hood look alike character in books, he is inevitably surrounded by a bevy of Guiwenneths, Blodwens, Winnibalds, Wunibalds and the like. How can any man be intoxicated with that?


message 18: by Traveller (new) - added it

Traveller Love your reviews, Jeffrey!


Jeffrey Keeten Knig-o-lass wrote: "'Did I mention there is a girl? She is called Guiwenneth'

Random thought of the day: why is it that if there is a Robin Hood look alike character in books, he is inevitably surrounded by a bevy of..."


He must call them by a pet name such as Bunny or Snuggles because thinking passionate thoughts about Wunibalds for instance would take some effort.


Jeffrey Keeten Traveller wrote: "Love your reviews, Jeffrey!"

Thank you so much Traveller. I enjoy your reviews too and appreciate your insightful commentary.


Jeffrey Keeten Bennet wrote: "Knig-o-lass wrote: "'Did I mention there is a girl? She is called Guiwenneth'

Random thought of the day: why is it that if there is a Robin Hood look alike character in books, he is inevitably sur..."


Marian was the full package. She can handle a sword or a bow as well as she can a courtly dinner party.


Richard Derus Jeffrey wrote: "Knig-o-lass wrote: "'Did I mention there is a girl? She is called Guiwenneth'

Random thought of the day: why is it that if there is a Robin Hood look alike character in books, he is inevitably sur..."


I've always had trouble imagining what I'd use instead of his name had I had a passionate encounter with Æthelfrith or Raedwald or one of those Saxon kings. I don't even know how to make those sounds when I'm *not* errrmmm, distracted shall we say.


Jeffrey Keeten Richard wrote: "Jeffrey wrote: "Knig-o-lass wrote: "'Did I mention there is a girl? She is called Guiwenneth'

Random thought of the day: why is it that if there is a Robin Hood look alike character in books, he i..."


AEthelfrith would be FROTHY and Raedwald would always be READY cause he's always errhh ready. The problem I would think with Kings is if you called them by their pet name at the wrong time your head might be separated from your body. Sure FROTHY/READY would regret being so hasty with the sword later that evening, but it wouldn't do you a whole helluva lot a good at that point as the wolves fight over your tender morsels.


message 24: by Kay (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kay I read this book years ago, and I didn't really get it. Maybe I just wasn't well versed enough in Jung. Reading your review tempts me to give this another shot.


Jeffrey Keeten Kay wrote: "I read this book years ago, and I didn't really get it. Maybe I just wasn't well versed enough in Jung. Reading your review tempts me to give this another shot."

Thanks Kay. I'm looking forward to book two to see how it builds on the first one.


message 26: by Lynne (new)

Lynne King There is only one word for this Jeffrey:

Excellent!


Jeffrey Keeten Lynne wrote: "There is only one word for this Jeffrey:

Excellent!"


Thank you Lynne!


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