A journey into the forest. William Fiennes on the ash, Tracy Chevalier on the birch, Blake Morrison on the chestnut, Ali Smith on the Scots pine. Plus Philip Hensher, Kate Mosse, Maggie O'Farrell, Tahmima Anam and Susan Elderkin.
'When I left for Paris at the age of nineteen, you were still a stranger to me. Come to think of it, I never called you Mama; I called you Mother, just as I never called my father Papa. How did that come about?'
For a place teeming with the ghosts of empire, hard labour, hard liquor, sailors and prostitutes, it’s almost unbearably tranquil. This Britain isn’t broken: it’s just quiet to the point of being unsettling.
'Riding past a crowded pavement on a hot day, swallowing consecutive gusts of perfume, sunscreen, cigarette smoke, and sometimes even halitosis, you realize just how helplessly intimate we all are in this city.'
'This was her grandest bid to bring something back from the ruins. She was not reading despite the bombs; she was reading with them, and the two – reading and bombs – are jumbled together in one of her last letters.'
How should we react when people fall? By Sunita Soliar
'Last Halloween, a woman was thrown out of a fourth-floor window in Marylebone. I was heading back to my flat on Chiltern Street with the intention of watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a film that I had always avoided.'