Just over a year ago, I began my review of Nik Perring’s Beautiful Words with the imperative ‘Do not read this book,’ and I meant it. I didn’t want readers to simply quickly flick through the pages of the book. Perring’s dictionary come love story, beautifully illustrated by Miranda Sofroniou, deserved better than that. I advised readers to lie back and imbibe it. To stroll though it with your fingers. To leap back and forth across the whole span of its alphabet. To make bold connections between entries that might lie pages apart. I closed by describing Beautiful Words as an emotionally engaging experience that welcomes repeat readers.
Which brings us to October 2015 and the about to be published Beautiful Words sequel, the second part in the Beautiful Trilogy, Beautiful Trees. Where Beautiful words was a collection of some words, some meanings and some fictions, Beautiful Trees brings together some trees, their origins and related fictions. Continuing Alex’s story from the first volume, we glimpse his life after Lucy through a series of tree related snapshots. Alex meets Lily while visiting a garden centre and, if you’ll excuse the pun, love blossoms.
Perring once again employs a non-chronological structure to reveal the quiet drama of the story which plays out under the boughs of the beautiful trees of the title, and once again, Sofroniou’s art expands on the text, particularly in terms of tone. It is fitting that Beautiful Trees should be receiving a release as autumn takes hold across the UK, as the book itself has an autumnal feel. Sofroniou’s charming artwork is presented in dark greens, browns and reds of autumn, with only the repeated mention of cherry blossom hinting at the spring that lies beyond the grip of the coming winter.
The fiction woven into the origins and folklore of the various trees reveals itself slowly and cumulatively, putting the reader in the centre of the relationships between Alex and Lily and their daughter Holly. Perspective shifts from entry to entry, allowing the reader to experience the varied character dynamics at play. As with Beautiful Words, the slim, concise nature of the text is packed with details that expand the narrative beyond what is simply shown on the page, only now, in addition to the connections between entries within Beautiful Trees itself, there are now also connections to be made with entries in its prequel. It will be interesting to see how these connections continue to spread out into the forthcoming final part of the trilogy, Beautiful Shapes.
After reading Beautiful Trees I took the advice I had given other readers in my review of Beautiful Words and imbibed both titles. I strolled from one text to the other, following narrative connections and juxtaposing images. I leaped from tree to word and back again. And now I can’t wait to explore the final instalment. In the mean-time I will continue to follow the advice of my previous review and keep these books on the coffee table, in the glove-box, or on a shelf in the kitchen, so that I or someone else can return to it in a spare moment and climb once more through the twisting limbs of its narrative and verdant foliage of the illustrations.
Nik Perring is the author of the children’s book, I Met a Roman Last Night, What Did You Do? EPS, 2006; the short story collection, Not So Perfect, Roastbooks 2010; co-author of Freaks! The Friday Project – Harper Collins, 2012; and Beautiful Words, Roastbooks 2014. His online home is http://www.nikperring.com and he’s on Twitter as @nikperring.