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Review of Damnation Spring by Ash Davidson

Damnation Spring

This may be my book of the year. It is beautifully written novel set in Californian redwood forest, a land of fog and towering trees beside the Pacific Ocean. It takes you inside the perspectives of loggers who are steadily cutting down the remaining forests in the 1970s, while hating the environmentalists who want to kill off their livelihoods. You even understand Rich, circling the biggest tree of the forest, dreaming of how he’s going to flatten it.

It’s set in a time and place where women stay home or work in the office, don’t vote, and need to be kept in line in terms of any environmental views or objections while the men do the real work of slicing through those trees. It’s life and death for them too, many will die out here, just as Rich’s father and grandfather did.

There’s also the horror of casual spraying of 2, 4,5-T and seeping unrest about what it’s doing to the animals, including humans, alongside the weeds it’s designed to get rid of, to clear the roadways and clear the way for the felling of the lucrative timber.

There’s a love interest who is here to measure the water, who is at risk of a flogging or just becoming ‘lost’ in the forest if he gets found by some of the loggers. There are cascading slips that threaten lives, and houses that are no longer owned, just on lease until they die, and transfer to the ever-encroaching Park that threatens to end generations of family’s work felling these trees.

There are secret deals, and free ‘company’ dinners for the workers. It’s gripping, and it’s a record of a real life reckoning that took place in the 1970s when the effect of toxins slowly became more apparent.

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