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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Suddenly in the Depths
of the Forest

Amos Oz

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Suddenly in the Depths of the Forest

Title: Suddenly in the Depths of the Forest
Author: Amos Oz
Genre: Novel
Written: 2005 (Eng. 2010)
Length: 134 pages
Original in: Hebrew
Availability: Suddenly in the Depths of the Forest - US
Suddenly in the Depths of the Forest - UK
Suddenly in the Depths of the Forest - Canada
Suddenly in the Depths of the Forest - India
Soudain dans la forêt profonde - France
Plötzlich tief im Wald - Deutschland
D'un tratto nel folto del bosco - Italia
De repente en lo profundo del bosque - España
  • Hebrew title: פתאום בעומק היער
  • Translated by Sondra Silverston

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Our Assessment:

B+ : pretty heavy tale of guilt and shame

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Guardian . 2/4/2010 Ian Sansom
The Independent . 4/3/2010 Julia Pascal
The Observer . 13/2/2010 David Mattin
The Telegraph . 16/3/2010 Philip Womack

  From the Reviews:
  • "In Suddenly in the Depths of the Forest the great Israeli novelist Amos Oz conjures up a fairy story in which we may well recognise ourselves, our history and our nations, though frankly it matters not, for as in all true stories, the meaning is the story" - Ian Sansom, The Guardian

  • "This is a tiny book that doubles both as a children's fable and an allegory for adults. It may be a fast read, but it has enormous resonances. (...) There's no neat resolution; rather, this is a nightmare world closer to the brutality of Charles Perrault than the happy endings of Hans Christian Andersen." - Julia Pascal, The Independent

  • "Oz's new work, a spare, short fable, constitutes his own "forest fairytale", his attempt to render, through this fantastical form, the collective trauma that has been the backdrop to his life and work." - David Mattin, The Observer

  • "The ending is moving, and Amos Oz is a beautiful, intelligent writer, throwing up interesting images. The novel will appeal to children of a dreamy cast of mind, and cause them to think about their place in the world." - Philip Womack, The Telegraph

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Suddenly in the Depths of the Forest is set in a distant village -- "gray and gloomy" in its isolation -- whose most distinctive characteristic is that there are no animals whatsoever there. They had all disappeared one night many years earlier, and the kids know about animals only from hearsay; as to why the animals left, well, the adults are reluctant to talk about it and prefer to avoid the subject.
       The absence of any wildlife or domestic animals -- and the deeply-held secret about their absence -- gives this village an eerie, oppressive feel; it's not a really happy place.
       Two kids, Maya and Matti, "feel the pull of the dark woods" -- "imagination tempted them to try to find out what was hidden in its depths". And there they are the first of their generation to stumble across actual live animals; venturing farther, they come across the much-feared Nehi the Mountain Demon and his fortress. Of course, Nehi and his fortress aren't quite what popular imagination suggested, and it is Nehi who reveals to them what happened to the animals and, more importantly, why they (and he) abandoned the village.
       Half allegory, half straightforward morality tale, Suddenly in the Depths of the Forest is a story of communal guilt and the ease with which groups gang up on individuals. Maya and Matti have seen as much among their own, too, and as they explore they also come across one good-natured fellow youngster, Nimi, who had finally tired of all the taunting and ridicule he was subjected and abandoned the village, and was now whooping it up carefreely on his own in the forest.
       Much of this tale is shadows and dark. Secrets oppress here, and typically:

     The twists and turns of the villagers' memories were strange. The things they tried very hard to remember sometimes eluded them and hid deep under the blanket of forgetfulness. And the things they decided they'd be better off forgetting were the ones that would rise out of forgetfulness as if to deliberately upset them. There were times when they remembered the smallest detail of what had almost never been.
       Community and those who aren't accepted fully into the community -- cruelly, almost randomly -- are among the several layered themes of the novel; communal memory, and communal guilt add to it. From petty name-calling to outright ostracism do individuals staking out their own happiness -- yet able to do so only in what is essentially isolation -- there is only limited cheer found here. It's a dark world, and even the corners that some have carved out for themselves don't seem entirely satisfying.
       Pretty heavy stuff, for children and adults -- but quite well done.

- M.A.Orthofer, 8 November 2011

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Suddenly in the Depths of the Forest: Reviews: Amos Oz:
  • The complete review's Amos Oz page
Other books by Amos Oz under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Israeli author Amos Oz (עמוס עוז) was born in 1939.

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© 2011-2013 the complete review

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