The Night Field
By Donna Glee Williams
- The Night Field
Author: Donna Glee Williams
Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books
- ISBN: 9781529422672
- Published: July 2023
- Pages: 341
- Format reviewed: Hardback
- Review date: 08/08/2023
- Language: English
The relationship that humans have with the land has always been critical for our survival from the hunter gatherers to the farmers, to the post-industrial world we live in today. Living as one with the planet will help it sustain itself and us, but in recent decades it does not take much more than a glance out of the window to see that an imbalance is in place. The news, documentaries, dramas and even comedies have explored this idea. Donna Glee Williams’ The Night Field explores the consequences of killing the planet via fantasy.
Pyn-Poi lives in The Real a place of nature where the local tribes nurture the plants to sustain themselves and the environment, but when The Stink comes people start to become ill and die. Pyn-Poi takes it upon herself to venture out of The Real into the world of the Ancestors to stop the malignance drifting down the river. Upon meeting these Ancestors, the reality is not the symbiotic jungles of The Real, but the harsh world of slavery and farmed lands.
You can read Night on two levels, there is an environmental message that tells a smaller version of what is happening in our own world. Pyn-Poi finds herself forced to work in the farms and part of that process must be causing The Stink to rise. This impact of poor farming techniques killing both the pests, but also the planet, is a metaphor for our own destructive treatment of the Earth. Is Pyn-Poi enough to save her people? Are we enough to save ourselves?
This message is only part of the book, it is also a great piece of magical fantasy. Pyn-Poi can communicate with the trees in some base way and her skills develop. We see the story from her point of view, but also from some of the characters around her and even some of the trees that she works on. The style is conversational in places as if the characters are reciting the story to friends at ye olde pub, next to a crackling fire. It has a sense of oral history to it that just adds to the ethereal nature of the story.
The tale is a split narrative; the present is Pyn-Poi's arrival at the farm and her treatment there. The other part is the lead up to this, her time in The Real and the early weeks with the upriver world. It is a harrowing story, one that reminds you of a slave drama. Pyn-Poi fate is not pleasant, but there is also a strength there. At the farm Pyn-Poi meets a matriarchy of protection and this gives her strength. Pyn-Poi is never a character to think of themselves, she is always driven to help others; her family, her fellow prisoners, the trees.
I love the fantasy genre, it is magical and often epic, but Night is a different type of fantasy novel. The consequences may be epic, but this is a personal tale. It is Pyn-Poi's story, and this is used to explore the environment. Her knowledge of nature allows the farms to adapt, using better techniques. Could we not do something on a worldwide scale? This is a fantasy novel for a reader looking for a more focussed story, a fantasy that will make you think.
Written on 8th August 2023 by Sam Tyler .