Rewilding is the practice of taking the landscape back to a more natural ecosystem, recalibrating the environment and allowing its man-made bruises to heal. In Bone Music by David Almond, we contemplate whether the philosophy of rewilding should be applied to our very own selves. It tells the story of young urbanite, Sylvia, reluctant newcomer to a Northumbrian village of too much sky and capricious mobile connection. Initially hostile to rural life, Sylvia is about to undergo a profound transformation in this absorbing contemplation of the connections between ourselves and nature.
Sylvia’s parents are recently estranged, and needing time to consider the marriage, her mum has brought her to the village of her own babyhood. From the top of the nearby fells, Sylvia can see the lights of her home city, not so far as the crow flies, but to this ‘city girl’ it feels like a million light years away. It will take the arrival of charismatic local boy, Gabriel, to quell her impotent resentment.
Flute-playing, freewheeling Gabriel is instantly drawn to Sylvia. She is a shaman, he tells her, somebody who transforms themselves in the wilderness and returns with enough magic and music to change the world. This weird boy with his eyes ‘filled with stars’ holds the key to her future.
David Almond is a wonderful writer. He’s been described as possessing Blakean intensity, which beautifully sums up the mesmerising otherworldliness of his descriptive prose. By no means anti-city, he shows us how reconnecting with the natural world of our ancestors can give us the tools to lead our 21st century lives, whichever environment we choose to make our home. A novel rich with musicality and folk tradition, Bone Music is an intriguing and timely novel.
If you like this, see also The Colour of the Sun by David Almond.
Bone Music by David Almond is published by Hodder Children’s Books, 208 pages.