Thank you to Penguin UK and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book.
Arty has always lived in the Clearing, a small settlement in the forests of south India.
But their happy life, hidden from the rest of the world, is shattered by a terrible accident. For the first time in her sixteen years, Arty must leave the only place she’s ever known, into the outside world she’s been taught to fear.
Her only goal is to get help from a woman called Tania, who used to live in the forest, and the Uncle she knows is out there, somewhere. As she embarks on the terrifying journey, pursued by an enemy she can’t fathom, Arty soon realises that not everyone is to be trusted.
She’s looking for answers, but what she’ll learn from Tania and Uncle Matthew is a shocking truth about her past.
Everything is changing too fast for this girl who came out of the woods, and is she running into a trap…?
Following The One Memory of Flora Banks and The Truth and Lies of Ella Black, Emily Barr is back with The Girl Who Came Out of the Woods and another tale about a girl on the cusp of womanhood who finds herself out on her own in an extraordionary situation.
I loved Flora Banks, but was sadly less fond of Ella Black, so went into this book with a slight sense of trepidation. I’m very happy to report that, while I didn’t think it was as briliant as Flora, in her latest book Barr gives us another truly sympathetic heroine. Arty is a young women who, in the most dire of circumstances, digs deep and proves resourceful in looking after herself and the pursuit of her goals.
I apologise if this review seems wishy-washy, but the less you know about the plot of The Girl Who Came Out of the Woods, the better your experience of it will be. However, without spoiling anything, I can mention the use of a dual timeline throughout the book, with mysterious chapters popping up at regular intervals to disrupt the main plot. At times these secondary chapters feel frustratingly obtuse, but they eventually set up a nice reveal to prepare the ground for the final twist which ties up all loose ends in a satisfying bow.
The Indian setting is wonderfully colourful and vibrant, providing a lively backdrop for the majority of Arty’s journey.
My one criticism is that of a sad, cynical adult: to me is seemed Arty was perhaps too fortunate in the people she meets when she strikes out on her own. Almost everyone wants to help her and is benevolent in their aims. You could either find this unrealistic or life-affirming, depending on your world view. I did wonder if it was entirely likely, especially given Arty’s sheltered upbringing and lack of experience of the wider world. On the other hand, the title of the book does suggest that there is something of the fairy tale about this story, and perhaps that’s the best spirit in which to approach questions of how fortunate Arty is in the people she meets on her journey.
Overall: If you enjoyed Flora Banks but perhaps weren’t so keen on Ella Black, I’d encourage you to read The Girl Who Came out of the Woods, both for its loveable heroine and the vibrancy of its Indian setting.
Claire Huston / Art and Soul