This is a strange book, both intriguing and somewhat mystifying. Its description pretty much lays out the basic plot setup. Richard Hunter, the first-person narrator, is indeed a mess, both socially and psychically. He freely admits his state of depression and muddlement, often berating himself for his thoughts and actions. I found myself by turns impatient and sympathetic with him, and more than once did some mental eye-rolling. Perhaps that's a normal reaction to one who is a romantic and does not always act rationally. On the other hand, Richard's frequent visits to his aged father, and his appreciation of Chelsea, the care home employee who attends the father, are reassuring indications of his fundamental decency.
Then there are the two women between whom Richard vacillates. I must say I didn't warm up to either of them. Davinia, the blond object of his apparently hopeless infatuation, is presented as a kind of ice princess. Some of her flirtatious conversations with Richard struck me as unlikely, but that may be due to the limitations of my perspective. The incident from which Richard rescues her is, I think, described in unnecessarily vague terms.
Lillian, the prisoner of a man described as a "villain," is at best enigmatic, at worst a role-playing schemer. On the one hand, her situation demands sympathy, but her secretiveness did not generate enough trust to make me regard her as a sympathetic character. At times I wondered if the women were never meant to be fully-realized individuals, but instead represented "types" created to appeal to different aspects of Richard's personality.
All that said, I read the book with interest, largely because I couldn't imagine how it might end. The lyrical descriptions of the setting, both the enchantments of the wood and its besmirching by intruders, are definitely worth reading. I recommend this book to readers of literary fiction who enjoy books that make them think and wonder.
(review of free book)