Few places in England are more resonant, more mysterious yet more friendly than the huge forest that lies by England’s southern coast, that provided hunting for England’s Saxon and Norman kings, and whose ancient oaks were used to build Nelson’s navy. Jane Austen and her family lived just 25 miles northeast of the forest. The river Avon runs down the forest’s western edge. On its eastern side is the ancient Saxon capital of Winchester, the great port of Southampton from which the Titanic set out, and the QE2 sails to this day, and beyond that Portsmouth, home of the British Navy.
It is against this backdrop that Rutherfurd tells a tale of woodsmen, monks, sailors, craftswomen and families. The largest family in the novel is modeled loosely upon the extended family of Jane Austen, together with certain other known families from the New Forest area.
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