This enchanting book by a South American-born Italian now living in Florida is based on the famous yew at Muckross Abbey in Killarney, an area which encompasses what is believed to be the oldest stand of yew trees in the world. The author has purposely chosen the title to refer both to the tree and to ourselves, underlining as his book does the relationship between man and nature in general and man and trees in particular. The two-thousand-year-old yew tells her own story of growth and dormancy, of rebirth and survival, and in the process not only gives us glimpses into history but more importantly gently educates the reader in botany and ecology. The Druids give way to the Christians, the Irish kings give way to conquerors from across the sea, and the author permits himself a number of digressions into mystery and folklore. Thus he explains the disappearance of the Roman IX Hispana Legion which vanished from recorded history after spending some time in Britain. Similarly, we are treated to a view that Robin Hood served his apprenticeship in Ireland, basing his future success on a longbow made from a branch of the Muckross yew. Each chapter encompasses a lesson to be learned by the reader and, should we be in any doubt of its import, he has included a detailed appendix annotating each chapter.
Reviewed by Pauline Ferrie
Date reviewed: 2001/04