First published back in February of 2015, US author Melanie Tem’s novel ‘The Yellow Wood’ was the last offering from the author prior to her sad passing in the same month.

DLS Synopsis:

Alexandra hadn’t seen or heard from her father since she left home at the age of eighteen.  Now, at the age of forty-nine she had her own life and her own family; of which her father, Alexander Kove, had no part of.  But after thirty years, Alexandra had now returned to her childhood home to see her father.  She had gone back to the long, low yellow house nestled within that thin little forest that, in her memory at least, was always one shade or another of yellow.

It wasn’t her sister Emily’s words that got her to return.  Deep down she knew it was his.  His words in her head.  His will.

Emily had worked tirelessly, tracking down the family members to get them all together.  Always the maternal mother, Emily had brought her eight young children along with her, who now dominated the small house with their cheerful noise and games.  However for Alexandra coming back to this place was something she had to do on her own.  Her ever-loving husband, Martin, understood and would be taking care of their children whilst she was away.  Although both their children had been adopted, Alexandra and Martin loved them as their own.  For in their eyes that was what they were.  Their own.

But being back in this house again, back in this place, was already taking its toll on Alexandra.  Her father’s presence, even though it was only ever in brief moments, had been wearing her down.  Even now, after all these years, she knew he was still judging her.  Quietly disapproving.  An unspoken disappointment in who she was and what she had made of her life.  But it was her life to lead.  Her choices to make.  Her own path to follow.

However, as the days go by, and she sees more of her brothers and sisters and what they had become, a strange suspicion begins to creep into her subconscious.  Each of her siblings had their own distinct attributes.  They had each followed their own personal passions in life.  But something wasn’t quite right.  Deep down, none of them seemed truly content.

Meanwhile, out in the yellow woods, Alexandra discovered that her father still had his hideout where he used to go when the family got too much for him.  It was somewhere where secrets hid.  Secrets that Alexandra now had to know.  It was something having to do with Emily and Galen and Will and Vaughn and her and Emily’s newly born baby Bella.  It was an influence that she knew still had control over their lives.  And somehow at the root of it all was her father…


DLS Review:
Some novels seem to just glide their way into your subconscious and nestle their at the back of your mind, gradually unravelling and telling its tale from deep within you.  It’s a strange and oddly disconcerting notion that a writer can wield such a subtle power over the reader – to stealthily sneak their way into your head and take some degree of control from the inside.  But then that’s what good storytelling can do.  And that’s exactly what Melanie Tem’s quietly evocative story does.

Calling ‘The Yellow Wood’ a slow-burner isn’t exactly right.  Yes, it takes its time, setting the scene and establishing the numerous characters and premise.  In fact, it’s not until you’re around a third of the way in that you start to pull together a proper picture of what’s going on.  But all through the laying down of these initial stepping stones, Tem is weaving together something that not only draws you in but also infiltrates your purposefully lulled senses.

Tem’s masterful writing style and prose is perhaps at the root of such a Trojan horse approach.  Almost poetic in its lyrical flare, her words seem to seep into your mind; akin to a softly spoken song whose hidden message is wrapped up within the tune.

And it’s from this place, this delicately engineered position, where Tem then begins to edge into darker, more unsettling territory.  Still the novel doesn’t tread too far into such turf.  After all, this is a novel that prefers to tiptoe around your senses.  It provides you with glimpses of the deeper truth.  The underlying secret.  But it’s not until you’re firmly in the thick of this dreamlike woodland that all is revealed and then then ground is taken away from beneath you.

Admittedly this perhaps all seems a little too delicate and ‘suggestive’ rather than being  an engaging and (for want of a better word) satisfying read.  But it works.  There’s enough bite lurking beneath the topsoil in the day-to-day interactions of this strange family to keep you turning the pages.  And through telling the story through the eyes of both Alexandra and her father Alexander, Tem has managed to weave together a story from two different (and opposing) angles that slowly-but-surely converges to instil a poignant and powerfully thought-provoking final message.

Beautifully written, enchantingly delivered, and unsettlingly effective in invading your inner sanctum.  This is one you’ll find quietly lingering there at the back of your mind for some time afterwards.

The novel runs for a total of 281 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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