Author: Jennifer Scoullar
Publisher: Pilyara Press
Publication Date: September 30th 2019
Copy: Courtesy of the Author
The Memory Tree is the third book in The Tasmanian Tales trilogy by the talented and environmentally conscious Jennifer Scoullar. If you haven’t read the earlier books in the series don’t despair, this book is more than capable of standing on its own.
The Abbott family are at the centre of this trilogy and The Memory Tree brings us into the present day, with some historical references to tie it to the earlier works. Matt Abbott seems to be the polar opposite of his timber and mining magnate father Fraser. Matt is head ranger at Binburra National Park, an avid conservationist; while Fraser Abbott is making a mint off logging and ensuring the industry changes to meet his needs.
Secrets abound in this story and they eat away at the foundation of relationships, once the foundations are unstable it lights the way for opportunists to try and weasel their way in.
Matt has a secret, a secret that he is struggling to come to terms with and that makes it difficult for him to know who he can share it with… so he doesn’t share it, instead he withdraws and he isolates himself from everyone.
Set in the depths of Tasmanian rainforest Scoullar brings her connection to the natural world to life with chapters written from the point of view of both flora and fauna, chapters written with warmth and understanding.
Central to this trilogy is the plight of endangered Tasmanian wildlife, both the thylacine and the Tasmanian Devil. The Memory Tree is set in the present day, long after the thylacine became extinct, and the focus is more on the critically endangered Tasmanian Devil and the horrific facial tumours decimating their already declining numbers.
Binburra National Park is about protecting all wildlife so there are many other furry and feathered characters for us to get to know. The Birds of prey are fascinating creatures, and I really enjoyed learning a little of how they recuperate and are trained ready for reintroduction to the wild.
Sophisticated and intelligent American geneticist Dr Sarah Deville is in Tasmania studying the Tasmanian Devil and the facial tumours threatening their existence, Penny is a big fan of her work and invested in her research for the survival of the devils but she isn’t really sold on her personality, even before Dr Deville sets her sights on Matt, Penny’s husband.
Part of the research is DNA testing of all devil samples, and Dr Deville invites Penny to Hobart to see her work in action it allows Penny access to specimen she otherwise wouldn’t have seen. Penny is an enthusiastic taxidermist, alongside her work at Binburra National Park.
The Memory Tree is set in a time where the logging industry in Tasmania is changing and there is a lot of protest against the decimation of natural forestry. The changes are so drastic that protestors are even coming from the industry to try and protect the natural state of Tasmania. People who want to retain the beauty of the region and the integrity of the forest.
Fraser and Matt Abbott have been at loggerheads for years and their relationship seems to be irreparable but Fraser is a determined man and he has his heart set on reconciling with his son, whatever the cost.
The beauty of The Memory Tree is about more than the people, more than the relationships and more even than the insightful and empathetic descriptions of the landscape and the wildlife; the beauty of The Memory Tree is the emotionally engaging and visually evocative way Scoullar weaves a tale that is as much about the plight of our natural world as the relationships of the people who inhabit it.
The Memory Tree closes out The Tasmanian Tales trilogy but there is a bit of a cliffhanger ending that’s left open for the story to be taken further. I would also be interested to see a little more of what happened in the years between The Lost Valley and The Memory Tree, there seems to be a much wider chasm between these two tales than I remember there being between Fortune’s Son and The Lost Valley.
My biggest issue with The Memory Tree is that it’s a much shorter story than it’s predecessors and that means it ended that much sooner and I was really enjoying my time back in the depths of the Tasmanian rainforests. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for more by Jennifer Scoullar and I will be keeping an eye out for the back list that I may have missed, I think there were a couple.
Overall this is an entertaining and engaging read that debates the fine line between preservation and conservation. A tale of relationships littered with secrets and how much stronger you can rebuild once all the secrets are brought to life.
The Memory Tree was read as part of the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2019.