I was asked to review The Woodcutter’s Story by its author Mark Walker. Mark is a horticulturist and garden designer who has created show gardens at Malvern, Cardiff, and Hampton Court horticultural shows. The book has been published in aid of Cancer Research UK. Mark wants to raise funds for the charity and indeed the show gardens he has built over the years have all been to raise awareness of the various charities which he feels strongly about. There is a short section at the start of the book showcasing his achievements in this area. In addition the book is illustrated throughout with Mark’s drawings.
This is a very moralistic tale about the perils of over ambition. Mark has drawn on his experiences in creating show gardens but has set his tale in times past in order to remove any immediate association with particular individuals. He has chosen to name his characters after native trees which is a charming device and allows him to include short pieces on the trees featured. The reference to native trees links to the story which is based around a Woodcutter, and his wife, to has ambitions to excel at the local show. His ambition and drive lead him to neglect the wood whose care he is tasked with as well as his wife; with dire consequences. It is the sort of tale you can imagine being told of an evening in days past, maybe around the fire, to teach people the perils of greed and ambition.
The strength of The Woodcutter’s Story is the way it puts across very clearly and succinctly its moral and ethical message; you can hear the voice of the author quite distinctly. It is also an interesting insight into the challenges faced in particular by garden designers creating show gardens who don’t benefit from large amounts of sponsorship or support. Interestingly it also demonstrates the addictive nature of entering the world of showing and the perilous route it can take you down. It is certainly a heartfelt book and you find yourself feeling concerned about the route the main character is taking.