From the opening lines of Swamp Gum emerging author Rowan Sylva establishes himself as a writer of great promise.
I was born in Tasmania and I am familiar with the unique type of temperate rainforest Sylva so perfectly describes in the first chapter of the book. I was instantly transported to the forest where shafts of soft green light filter through the canopy of the giant trees; and moss covers everything underfoot.
Later, when the action returns to the yurt at the camp where the activists are entrenched, we meet the main players who are waging a silent war against the loggers. When some of these decide to take a closer look at a disbanded ‘enemy’ camp, they make a grisly discovery.
Here the book takes a different turn as the activists suddenly find themselves trying to solve a murder. It was at this point that the book began to unravel for me. The plot lost some credibility, but more than this, the editor in me over-rode the reader. I began to slash sentences and I wanted to underline passages.
But all of this says more about me as a type of reader, than it says about Rowan Sylva as a writer. As I said at the beginning of this review, this is an author who shows a great deal of promise. I am certain his style of writing will find great favour with a reader who more closely resembles the demographic at which he aims.
I suspect I am a bit older than that general demographic and so I passed the book on to my son, without reservation. I am keen to hear how much he enjoyed it, as I am certain he will. The main reason I had been keen to read this book was because it is based in the wilderness of the Tasmanian rainforest. Much of this has been saved from destruction by people a lot like the characters of this ecological thriller.
By tapping in to this and celebrating the work done by activists to save our wilderness areas from developers, Rowan Sylva does us all a great service.
Reviewer: Peta Stavelli