Katherine Rundell’s ‘The Explorer’ was published in the UK last week, on 10 August 2017, by Bloomsbury. I received this book, free, from NetGalley.
I am still trying to decide quite why I love this book. At several points it reads as though it is some sort of manual, a ‘Young Person’s Guide to Surviving in the Jungle’ that at the last moment has been converted into fiction. The writer rightly removes world exploration from world exploitation and empire but in doing so makes being a modern-day explorer an option only for those with independent income as well as independent attitude. And yet…
And yet there is real magic here, for example in Lila’s love for the sloth: ‘Lila didn’t seem to be breathing. But it was as if a light came out of her; she seemed to glow out into the forest.’ and ‘Lila shook. Every part of her radiated longing’. This is an adventure book. This is a disaster book. This is a book about growing up, growing into oneself, and exploring the world physically emotionally and philosophically. This novel is not flawless but it is a breath-taking, wondrous read, rather like the rain-forest itself.
‘It looked, Fred thought, like someone had designed it [the rain forest] with a purpose in mind: someone who wanted the world to be as wild and green and alive as possible’