Dark Forest, Deep Sea: Reflections of a hunter by Richard Hall (Submarine, 2017), 250 pp., $38; Oxygen by William Trubridge (HarperCollins, 2017) 336 pp., $39.99
Every now and again you open a book, begin reading and relax as you realise that you have found the perfect fit for your mood. This is what happened to me when I began Richard Hall’s Dark Forest, Deep Sea: Reflections of a hunter. I hadn’t known that I wanted to read a book about hunting, but the depth of Hall’s detailed observation immediately struck a chord. The opening paragraph begins with a description of the scent of his felted wool hunting jersey:
Laced within was the scent of beech forest from the mountains of New Zealand – aromatic like cinnamon, but mixed with a volatile component reminiscent of eucalypt – a scent so crisp it struck all other thoughts from my mind. Then another layer – earthy, like wet fistfuls of crumbling humus fresh from the forest floor. The subtle musk of deer from past hunts lingered, not unpleasant, distinctly animal. My head spun and I was taken straight into a memory of the Southern Alps, far from the wooden panels of my shed on the rim of Wellington Harbour.
Immense snow-capped mountains rose up around me, valleys clad with thousands of acres of dark green forest, braided rivers flowing through golden tussocks. A rifle lay across my lap and my dog, Jack, leaned against me, our prints dotted out behind us in the dew. Breath condensed in puffs, wafting up like smoke. I pulled the jersey away, returning to reality, and stood over my pack with the garment hanging loosely from my hands. The vision left me, but the feelings did not. Feelings of enchantment, contentment, wonder, longing. [Read more…]