The examples that Wohlleben draws on are all from the forest around the mountain lodge in which he lives and it makes you realise how location-specific are the natural world and its problems... it’s difficult when many of the examples come from an environment quite alien to our own... Wohlleben’s voice is that of a jaunty, hail-fellow-well-met naturalist, sometimes plain speaking and affable, but more often awkwardly phrased and with the waggling finger of the pub bore. When his observations are so strikingly stimulating, one can overlook the dodgy jokes and cliches... In the less gripping passages, his personality begins to grate badly. Wohlleben’s saccharine nicknames for trees and animals, the clunking segues between chapters, the shopworn idioms he employs all undermine the impact of a trilogy that, with a better appreciation of the importance of style, could have been truly revelatory.
A radical thread runs through his writing, which is just about enough to turn what on the face of it is a simplistic romp through familiar “aw gee isn’t mother nature just amazing” territory into something more interesting.
Before we get there, however, we have to put up with the author’s style, which has all the didactic joy of a keen German gap year student guide bursting out on a peaceful walk every few minutes with a new fact which he, at least, finds interesting: “In Germany an average of 481 litres of water evaporate per square metre every year.” Some of this stuff is redundant. Much of it is properly fascinating, however — and Wohlleben is right to remind us that everything is joined up...I sense Wohlleben is a bit of an ultra: natural Germany, he says, would all be forest, with grassland species created by humans lost. He then admits that would be dull. I agree with that. After all, we’re part of nature too.