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Ekman's central character is Skord, a magical being who is neither man nor animal. The novel begins in the Middle Ages when Skord finds himself in a forest with no memory, no past and no language. As he observes the behaviour of the human beings he meets in the forest, he begins to gradually to understand human civilisation and to learn their language. Although he can pose Ekman's central character is Skord, a magical being who is neither man nor animal. The novel begins in the Middle Ages when Skord finds himself in a forest with no memory, no past and no language. As he observes the behaviour of the human beings he meets in the forest, he begins to gradually to understand human civilisation and to learn their language. Although he can pose as one of them, however, he is also able to assume the form of animals and cause things to happen simply by willing them. Skord survives for five hundred years and lives many different lives but, despite his learning, he finds it difficult to resist the call of the forest and returns there periodically to rejoin the band of forest outlaws who live outside human society. He will live to see the nineteenth century and the age of steam, but, by then, he will have discovered that man's supposed cultivation is in fact destructive and the most important thing in life is love - his love of a forest woman.


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Ekman's central character is Skord, a magical being who is neither man nor animal. The novel begins in the Middle Ages when Skord finds himself in a forest with no memory, no past and no language. As he observes the behaviour of the human beings he meets in the forest, he begins to gradually to understand human civilisation and to learn their language. Although he can pose Ekman's central character is Skord, a magical being who is neither man nor animal. The novel begins in the Middle Ages when Skord finds himself in a forest with no memory, no past and no language. As he observes the behaviour of the human beings he meets in the forest, he begins to gradually to understand human civilisation and to learn their language. Although he can pose as one of them, however, he is also able to assume the form of animals and cause things to happen simply by willing them. Skord survives for five hundred years and lives many different lives but, despite his learning, he finds it difficult to resist the call of the forest and returns there periodically to rejoin the band of forest outlaws who live outside human society. He will live to see the nineteenth century and the age of steam, but, by then, he will have discovered that man's supposed cultivation is in fact destructive and the most important thing in life is love - his love of a forest woman.

30 review for The Forest of Hours

  1. 5 out of 5

    Bryn Hammond

    It was a scrawny little troll, unknowing and guileless, and not much given to thinking at all. There was little more than fluttering, like the wings of jays, going on under that tussock of hair. Skord is a creature of the forest – not a troll as I thought of trolls, and not very fantastic except that he has the gift, shaman-wise, of sending his consciousness into other beings (which he does by habit just for the trip), and he lives for the five hundred years of the novel. There are giants in the It was a scrawny little troll, unknowing and guileless, and not much given to thinking at all. There was little more than fluttering, like the wings of jays, going on under that tussock of hair. Skord is a creature of the forest – not a troll as I thought of trolls, and not very fantastic except that he has the gift, shaman-wise, of sending his consciousness into other beings (which he does by habit just for the trip), and he lives for the five hundred years of the novel. There are giants in the forest too: these are slow-lived and eon-slow of thought. Like Skord, they are more likely to be victims of humans, as humans develop from medieval to the industrial age. The forest is that of Sweden’s wild Skule, and as much a presence in the book as the sea in Moby Dick – both the real-as-real depiction and getting metaphysical about it too. Skord, who cannot help but mimic what he hears and sees, learns from humans, interacts with them and slips into their world. This is the story of his knowledge gained of that world, his corruption by it, his possible escape from it and salvation? It’s the alien eye turned on us and on our history. The book is dark and grim, with gentle gleams. Skord is more acted upon than acting; he witnesses how strange we are, without any concern to judge us – he can be disturbingly detached, at our abysmal behaviour. Yet it is his empathy with vulnerable things, often animals or children, lives he can identify with, that is his grace. I experienced this as an anti-human book. Whether it is or not I don’t know, it remains enigmatic to me. It is a creatures’ book, however. It has been translated into drop-dead gorgeous English. The translator, Anna Paterson, must have brought such art to it herself, even if the Swedish is this lovely. In the end it may be too dark for me or for my comfort, but after two reads now this has got to be one of my most-admired books, certainly of recent ones. The woman is a genius. I’ll have to try her crime novel, Blackwater, that is above and beyond your usual crime novel, they say. Alas with a different translator, but again, a remote forest setting. # Review when I'm competent. But they can bury me with this one.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Andy

    Very engaging start & before you know it yer near 100 pages in & totally absorbed by the ruminations of a Troll, called Skord, about the humans he encounters on his wanderings in the forest & their peculiarities and abuses of nature/humans. Its very cleverly written & as ive said engaging as you view us (destructive) humans through the ages. The tale starts in the dark ages with man having basic shelter then swiftly into a feudal age at a time when Christianity is beginning to evolve & take hold Very engaging start & before you know it yer near 100 pages in & totally absorbed by the ruminations of a Troll, called Skord, about the humans he encounters on his wanderings in the forest & their peculiarities and abuses of nature/humans. Its very cleverly written & as ive said engaging as you view us (destructive) humans through the ages. The tale starts in the dark ages with man having basic shelter then swiftly into a feudal age at a time when Christianity is beginning to evolve & take hold in the region. During this period humans interact with Skord, a mystical Troll like creature which is oft mistook for a small unkempt child, treated as such, to be misused & abused by adults. At first Skord is very much of the forest & the life therein but over the period he begins to befriend certain humans, mostly children as they treat him as an equal & he learns the ways, peculiarities & language of humans. Its this initial contact & interaction I enjoyed the most, the ideas/concepts are brilliantly related, the writing flows & the story enchanting in its telling. You learn about the period too through the eyes of the people he encounters, be it peasant, Lord, priest or bandit & it all adds to the story. This part of the story is a clear 5 stars. In the middle ages (Alchemy) when he resides in the towns/cities, Skord has outgrown his wild youth & his nature changes as innocence is lost, shown through his actions & dedication to the development of science....... the simple life that Skord has come from has been forgotten, the forest & nature left far behind. Then comes the age of Musket, Cannon & imperial warfare, the story is interesting in a historical fiction content but it’s no longer playful as the younger Skord was with his ruminations, in fact at times its very dark & brutal...... the later stages (late 1800’s) sees a more philosophical read & truth be told I was a little bored at times by this stage as the action had dissipated & although the writing was still clever I did find it a little hard to follow..... far too clever for the likes of me perhaps. But thats the story of a life span isn’t it....? The youthful innocence of play, the adolescent trying to find his way, the wild adventures of a confident immortal young man, a committed middle aged professional, a reflective & philosophical old man who reminisces about his lost childhood...... this is what I believe I have read about (in conjunction with mans destructive nature) coming to the end of this book, all as seen & lived through the eyes of a Forest Troll. It’s definitely a book to make you think as it changes its tact throughout. In a ways its also a collection of small stories told through one character but at different stages of his development as well as different times in our history. Beautifully crafted & for the most part I was engaged although at times it did loose me in terms of attention span as well as intellectually especially in the later quarter......... Recommended for those who want to try something thought provoking & a little deeper, I think you will be surprised by this, delightfully so. A difficult book to grade as It did scale of for me as the book wore on but I still would finish it with a 3.5 marks rounded upto 4

  3. 5 out of 5

    Marcus Lagergren

    This book leaves white hot trails over my soul. I love it. Having read it in both Swedish and English, I must say that the English translation is a masterpiece!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Bettie

    (view spoiler)[ Bettie's Books (hide spoiler)] (view spoiler)[ Bettie's Books (hide spoiler)]

  5. 4 out of 5

    Mira

    Kind of like "Pilgrim" in that this book follows the main character through decades of life in the northern lands of Europe. Historical research must be a favourite past-time of Kerstin, because the detail is amazing. The main character is weird, enlightening, debased, motivated, cruel, loving, intelligent and, above all, chilling. It is a HUGE philosophical pondering on living culture and ancestral imagination and mythology. Crazy shit. If you can get past the "fantasy" aspects of the story, it Kind of like "Pilgrim" in that this book follows the main character through decades of life in the northern lands of Europe. Historical research must be a favourite past-time of Kerstin, because the detail is amazing. The main character is weird, enlightening, debased, motivated, cruel, loving, intelligent and, above all, chilling. It is a HUGE philosophical pondering on living culture and ancestral imagination and mythology. Crazy shit. If you can get past the "fantasy" aspects of the story, its a rewarding look at philosophy, space/time, and subjective human experience. That's me, trying to intellectualise an entertaining read.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Christina

    I have no complaints. This is beautiful and thought provoking all the way through. The use of scandinavian mythology intertwined with historically accurate medival scandinavia so well, that I would personally call this a historical fiction as much as a fantasy. Though the story spans from the medival to the top-hat and steam engine times, no part of the historical facts were mundane. Forests feature strongly and the writing is so rich and sense awakening that I feel like I've visited all those p I have no complaints. This is beautiful and thought provoking all the way through. The use of scandinavian mythology intertwined with historically accurate medival scandinavia so well, that I would personally call this a historical fiction as much as a fantasy. Though the story spans from the medival to the top-hat and steam engine times, no part of the historical facts were mundane. Forests feature strongly and the writing is so rich and sense awakening that I feel like I've visited all those places myself. I look forward to reading other works by this author.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    Tried to read and enjoy, but couldn't get in to it, so will leave and pretend we didn't meet and end so disappointingly Tried to read and enjoy, but couldn't get in to it, so will leave and pretend we didn't meet and end so disappointingly

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jane

    This began promisingly: in the Middle Ages a troll, Skord, meets children who teach him about houses and fire. They teach him to talk; he can already talk with the animals and birds. This and several chapters thereafter were like folktales: Skord, in the forest of Skule, starts interaction with humans and wants to be more like them. Then, as centuries pass, Skord moves from the forest, has more dealings with humans: experiences war and imprisonment, an outlaw band, is an apprentice doctor and ap This began promisingly: in the Middle Ages a troll, Skord, meets children who teach him about houses and fire. They teach him to talk; he can already talk with the animals and birds. This and several chapters thereafter were like folktales: Skord, in the forest of Skule, starts interaction with humans and wants to be more like them. Then, as centuries pass, Skord moves from the forest, has more dealings with humans: experiences war and imprisonment, an outlaw band, is an apprentice doctor and apprentice alchemist, and finally meets a young girl with whom he has conversations about life. He returns to the forest, which is like a continuing character all through the novel. As the novel progressed to the 19th century, I didn't understand it. It was certainly original and creative, but eventually over my head.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Veerle

    I've read this magical, beautifully written novel nearly 20 years ago, and have reread it since several times ... the imaginative story of the troll Skord, steeped in Scandinavia's nature and history, is not an easy read, but highly recommended. Kerstin Ekman is a much acclaimed author in her homeland Sweden, and deservedly so. This book is translated as "Les brigands de la foret de Skule" in French, and as "De dwaas" in Dutch. I've read this magical, beautifully written novel nearly 20 years ago, and have reread it since several times ... the imaginative story of the troll Skord, steeped in Scandinavia's nature and history, is not an easy read, but highly recommended. Kerstin Ekman is a much acclaimed author in her homeland Sweden, and deservedly so. This book is translated as "Les brigands de la foret de Skule" in French, and as "De dwaas" in Dutch.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    A very mysterious book, from the author of Blackwater (which it pre-dates). A kind of history of Sweden, through the eyes of a troll, who, passing for a somewhat mis-shapen human, experiences the humans' world from the early middle ages through to the Renaissance, by virtue of a much longer than human life span. Fascinating, but oh so bleak. A very mysterious book, from the author of Blackwater (which it pre-dates). A kind of history of Sweden, through the eyes of a troll, who, passing for a somewhat mis-shapen human, experiences the humans' world from the early middle ages through to the Renaissance, by virtue of a much longer than human life span. Fascinating, but oh so bleak.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ken Fredette

    It took a long time to get through, didn't think giants lived so long. Skord was a neat character. It took a long time to get through, didn't think giants lived so long. Skord was a neat character.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Meredith

    One of the most fantastical and fascinating books I've ever read. One of the most fantastical and fascinating books I've ever read.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jodi

    I bit of a slog but with some interesting bits. Just enough to keep me reading but nothing more.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Marianne Frenhofer

    This is no ordinary fantasy book. If you expect something like Harry Potter or even Lord of The Rings, this is not a good reading for you. The Forest of Hours is dense and sometimes dark. Even in its fluent reading (the English translation is superb!), it is difficult. I have rarely seen something more profound about human nature than this. When the story begins, Skord, a young troll, has the childish naivity of a magical young creature. As he grows older, he becomes more and more humanized, pass This is no ordinary fantasy book. If you expect something like Harry Potter or even Lord of The Rings, this is not a good reading for you. The Forest of Hours is dense and sometimes dark. Even in its fluent reading (the English translation is superb!), it is difficult. I have rarely seen something more profound about human nature than this. When the story begins, Skord, a young troll, has the childish naivity of a magical young creature. As he grows older, he becomes more and more humanized, passing through experiences which are strange and, often, grottesque. One might think “of course they are grottesque! He’s a troll, after all!” But it’s not thay easy: although these events seem like something spooky or supernatural, their uncanniness comes precisely because they are profoundly, bizarrely human. And human nature, at its deepest core, can be as dark as the most terrible monsters we can imagine. It is curious to realise that he starts to lose his magical troll naivity as soon as he is initiated in human language. I’m not speaking only of the idiom here - he learns how to talk, as well as how to behave, to wash himself, to eat meat and have his meals sitting by a table; then, he studies Latin, alchemy, science and medicine. I think Barthes would agree that language is what encapsulates us as humans. In Skord’s disavendtures, to become human seems to have a terrible consequence: the distance between himself and the Forest grows. Throughout the story, we are presented to many different types of charachters, each one of them is a particular piece in the story puzzle. These creatures, mostly humans, come and go during Skord's life as friends, lovers or are even just part of stories told to the troll by someone else. But everything is meaninful, and the plot shows us that this connectiveness between things and beings have a reason, although this is never fully explained. The main story unfolds to so many other ones, and also vice-versa... some people might think this can be a bit confusing, but I found it a brilliant way to show us how diferent beings can intertwine in this big mysterious web which is Life itself. I believe The Forest of Hours was one of the best books I’ve ever read. It’s hard to believe it was only published in English once or twice, more than 15 years ago, and never in Portuguese (I’m from Brasil). Hope someday it will be able to find its place amongst other masterpieces.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Morgan

    Reads like a cross between the Tolkien trilogy, an Ingmar Bergman film, a James Michener novel and David Abrams's "Spell of the Sensuous." Sank into its deepening melancholy and mysterious and ambiguous sense of time, space and nature of being over the 500-year life of its protagonist. Breath is suspended while life throbs on--trudging, gliding, crawling, cartwheeling moment to moment. The deeply personal in a third person narrative. Enter only if you have a great deal time on your hands and the Reads like a cross between the Tolkien trilogy, an Ingmar Bergman film, a James Michener novel and David Abrams's "Spell of the Sensuous." Sank into its deepening melancholy and mysterious and ambiguous sense of time, space and nature of being over the 500-year life of its protagonist. Breath is suspended while life throbs on--trudging, gliding, crawling, cartwheeling moment to moment. The deeply personal in a third person narrative. Enter only if you have a great deal time on your hands and the emotional stability to NOT have your deepest questions answered. Please do not attempt to speed read or you will completely miss the point. Now, what was that point?

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Finally finished. This and Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock were given as favourite books by Robert Macfarlane in a newspaper article. Couldn't stomach Mythago Wood but I did finish The Forest of Hours - and enjoyed quite a lot of it - but I'm left wondering what the point of it is. Didn't really teach me anything, no arc of plot, a very faint emotional journey. So in the future I shall stick to reading Rob Macfarlane's own books which are wonderful. Finally finished. This and Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock were given as favourite books by Robert Macfarlane in a newspaper article. Couldn't stomach Mythago Wood but I did finish The Forest of Hours - and enjoyed quite a lot of it - but I'm left wondering what the point of it is. Didn't really teach me anything, no arc of plot, a very faint emotional journey. So in the future I shall stick to reading Rob Macfarlane's own books which are wonderful.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Steven Davis

    Abandoned about half way through when I realised I was deliberately doing other things than face trying to read more of it. The author has *something*, but either not enough of it or it's a poor translation. Shame. There was potential here. Abandoned about half way through when I realised I was deliberately doing other things than face trying to read more of it. The author has *something*, but either not enough of it or it's a poor translation. Shame. There was potential here.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Brenda Rosser

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. All 484 pages of it. From a better class of community bookshelf, perhaps a good isolation/quarantine read

  19. 5 out of 5

    Nathalie

    This book stayed in my mind for quite a while after I read it. It took me a while to get into it but by about halfway in I was hooked. It is quite dense though - it's a better book to sit down and enjoy when you don't have too many other life distractions to deal with. It's a really atmospheric book and conveys the passage of years and changing society across multiple generations really well. My only issue with the book was that, in the version I read, all the footnotes were at the back, and not This book stayed in my mind for quite a while after I read it. It took me a while to get into it but by about halfway in I was hooked. It is quite dense though - it's a better book to sit down and enjoy when you don't have too many other life distractions to deal with. It's a really atmospheric book and conveys the passage of years and changing society across multiple generations really well. My only issue with the book was that, in the version I read, all the footnotes were at the back, and not identified within the text (I've never seen it done this way before?), so you had to keep flipping back and forward and make a mental note of the next page that contained a footnote or translation. I was already 1/3 of the way through the book before I even realised there was an appendix.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kristina

    In fact, I have two ratings for this book. The first is for the Swedish original, a mesmerising, magical tale transporting the reader from early medieval Sweden through seven or so centuries, all shared through the education of Skord, a troll, and his journey from a time of few words through to more sophistication and understanding of human life an society. Ekman's thrilling language evolves with the centuries and realities of the times. Some of her writing on nature, human interaction, love, ar In fact, I have two ratings for this book. The first is for the Swedish original, a mesmerising, magical tale transporting the reader from early medieval Sweden through seven or so centuries, all shared through the education of Skord, a troll, and his journey from a time of few words through to more sophistication and understanding of human life an society. Ekman's thrilling language evolves with the centuries and realities of the times. Some of her writing on nature, human interaction, love, are the best I have ever read. My second rating, if it were possible, would be for the breathtaking English translation, beautiful and evocative and retaining all those elements that made the original book such a wonder to read.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Skord

    Maybe Moomintroll just sailed across the Baltic to Skuleskogen, went a bit wild in his teenage years and had to spend some time learning how to fit into society again. Kerstin Ekman tells the story of just such a Troll whose fateful decision to perform an untrollike act binds him to an increasingly human existence for the remaining centuries of his life. The story of Skords journey to humanity from criminal to alchemist to soldier to doctor to man and back again is picked out in in precise detail Maybe Moomintroll just sailed across the Baltic to Skuleskogen, went a bit wild in his teenage years and had to spend some time learning how to fit into society again. Kerstin Ekman tells the story of just such a Troll whose fateful decision to perform an untrollike act binds him to an increasingly human existence for the remaining centuries of his life. The story of Skords journey to humanity from criminal to alchemist to soldier to doctor to man and back again is picked out in in precise detail despite the vast sweep of the story. With Ekman you don't hear the story, you're in the room and it isn't always a comfortable place to be. But is a very human place and if you finish the last chapter dry eyed you are not as human as this troll.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Isabel (kittiwake)

    After about 30 pages of the troll Skord wandering around the forest, I was extremely bored. A couple of weeks later I decided to give it another chance and it improved immediately. Maybe it was the fact that Skord started interacting with the humans who passed through the forest and learnt to understand their language so there was actually some plot to get my teeth into, or maybe I was just in the wrong mood when I started it. The most interesting parts were towards the end, when he was experime After about 30 pages of the troll Skord wandering around the forest, I was extremely bored. A couple of weeks later I decided to give it another chance and it improved immediately. Maybe it was the fact that Skord started interacting with the humans who passed through the forest and learnt to understand their language so there was actually some plot to get my teeth into, or maybe I was just in the wrong mood when I started it. The most interesting parts were towards the end, when he was experimenting with alchemy.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Isla Turner

    Nicked from my non-reader boyfriend because I knew he'd never read it. I mainly enjoyed the concept of the novel, but it wasn't what I was expecting and found that a little disappointing. It was quite heavy-going. I feel like I would have enjoyed it more if I had read it in the original Swedish. And isn't that always the case when reading a book in translation... Nicked from my non-reader boyfriend because I knew he'd never read it. I mainly enjoyed the concept of the novel, but it wasn't what I was expecting and found that a little disappointing. It was quite heavy-going. I feel like I would have enjoyed it more if I had read it in the original Swedish. And isn't that always the case when reading a book in translation...

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Ward

    As vividly imagined as any book I've read. A slow, beautifully written, measured novel that is shot through with pathos and raw insights about humanity. The translation maintains the beauty and peculiarities of the Swedish language and it feels like reading for the first time. Feels very much in a company with Gormenghast. As vividly imagined as any book I've read. A slow, beautifully written, measured novel that is shot through with pathos and raw insights about humanity. The translation maintains the beauty and peculiarities of the Swedish language and it feels like reading for the first time. Feels very much in a company with Gormenghast.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Violette

    I started this book months ago and I was really into it, but now, well, as you can see I'm reading other stuff in between... maybe I'll try and finish. I will say that it's an unusual book. ok, maybe I will shelve it now for a year or so. I started this book months ago and I was really into it, but now, well, as you can see I'm reading other stuff in between... maybe I'll try and finish. I will say that it's an unusual book. ok, maybe I will shelve it now for a year or so.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Tatiana Maria

    I'm just not ready for this book right now. The main character is literally a troll, and the narrative style is just not working for me. This is possibly a great book, and I may come back to it in the future, but this isn't the time. I'm just not ready for this book right now. The main character is literally a troll, and the narrative style is just not working for me. This is possibly a great book, and I may come back to it in the future, but this isn't the time.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Katrina Vliet

    I love this book, it is a little bit hard going to start with, but soon gets going and becomes compulsive reading.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Enna

    weird but compelling. And haunting.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Steve M

    Maybe a little overlong but Ekman's style conjures profound images and she's superbly adept at evoking sense of place. Maybe a little overlong but Ekman's style conjures profound images and she's superbly adept at evoking sense of place.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Becks

    Interesting and erratic and enough to push on despite reading other titles throughout. Haven't read another like it that's for sure. Interesting and erratic and enough to push on despite reading other titles throughout. Haven't read another like it that's for sure.

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