A natural-political exploration of Russian relationships with the birch tree across past, present, and future. Moving from the Tsarina's garden to the Soviet Gulag, from Chernobyl to Lake Baikal, The White Birch is elegant and intrepid, like its subject
There could be no better guide through the thickets of meaning, history and imagery that entangle with the birch tree than figurative forester Tom Jeffreys
With elegance, humour, and deep insight . . . The White Birch is a daring, at once sympathetic and critical, experiment in interpreting how national identity is entwined with a tree. More than a book, it is a mirror and a magnifying glass, through which to observe the all-too-human and the other-than-human worlds, as well as, of course, ourselves
I love the kind of book that The White Birch is. Not just for what it says and how it says it, but for the fields it unrools in order to find those things and for the journey across the unravelling plains . . . Symbols do plenty of work in Tom Jeffreys' book and he is expert in understanding them, tracking down how they dodge and change. The White Birch is an adventure story that combines the thrills of an intellectual howdunnit with visceral ordeals.
I loved the grafting of travel/art/cultural and social history in this engaging foray into Russia and Russianness . . . Although I've never been, by the end of this book, I felt as if I had. Tom Jeffreys is a great noticer of telling detail and brings a capacious understanding and deftness of touch to a narrative that feels to get under the skin/bark of a place and give it its distinction
The White Birch is a wonderful book: at once an idiosyncratic personal journey and an erudite and clear-eyed critical study. Jeffreys is a deeply human writer and a smart and honest critic who here, splitting the timber of the Russian birch, finds his way deep into the Russian idea of Russia
The White Birch may be an ostensible study of a single species of tree. But as shown, it's a lot more ambitious. Jeffreys positions himself as an obsessive slavophile and a blundering botanist, rather than a world authority on Russia. Who could be such a thing!? As a result one is very happy to enjoy this self-reflexive journey, some most erudite travel writing about a most fascinating land.
A beautiful and profound meditation on the way landscape shapes art and life. I was entranced by The White Birch, a book that comes close to encapsulating the vast enigma of Russia in the form of a single tree
Fascinating . . . The White Birch was a welcome surprise of a book, not just exploring nature but also this vast and complex country that so few of us in the west only glimpse from the outside and a must for anyone with an interest in Russian history
I love this book. Jeffreys admits he doesn't know where he's going at every turn, but trusts his instinct - and his ear for a good story - as he tries to untangle myth from fact . . . This is the great joy of The White Birch