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Understory: A Life with Trees (Inga Simpson, Hachette)

Many people dream about making a ‘tree change’. When Inga Simpson and her partner fell in love with 10 acres of bush in the Sunshine Coast hinterland, they succumbed to its allure without quite knowing just what they were taking on. They followed their hearts and purchased the adjoining block to set up their own writers’ retreat business, threw in their jobs and went to work—only for the GFC (and other factors) to drop them into the hurtful depths of uncaring reality. There are plenty of these stories out there, but what makes this one worth the reader’s time is the interweaving of natural science and personal story, description and reflection. Many chapters start with a particular tree found on the block—its growth and habitat, the fauna it supports and its human usage—before flowing into Simpson’s life and labours. She learns to look, to see, and finally, to recognise not only the trees on her property, but also her own possibilities and strengths. While each of Simpson’s novels has shown a strong connection to land and nature, this book allows her to expand her observations and concerns, and to preserve and celebrate her trees in words. It is a fine addition to the genre of Australian nature writing.

Lindy Jones is a senior buyer and bookseller at Abbey’s Bookshop, Sydney. She is also a keen birdwatcher and used to know the Sunshine Coast hinterland very well


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