|Lillah lives on an island called Botanica. Life on Botanica
is dominated by the giant Tree that oversees the world. Lillah has come of age and, as her
rite of passage, is about to embark on her journey around the Tree. She will be a teacher
to those she meets, and also a student. The novel is the tale of her journey.
extent the book is just a travelogue. Lillah journeys from isolated village to isolated
village each of which proves to have its own unique culture. Each culture has its own
"flavour" which derives from the nature of the Tree at that part of the island.
That nature is different in each place. Since Botanica is an island, the sea is also an
important part of the culture of each village some embrace it for the bounty it
provides and some are fearful of it, scared of the monsters that live there.
Each village has its own creation myth and its own myth of the end of all things. Story
telling is the mechanism used to pass knowledge on to other villages and also to
illuminate the local culture. As Lillah progresses around the Tree, she meets many
cultures; some good and some bad and she learns their stories and describes them all for
Walking the Tree is a history of Botanica and of its people, and
Lillahs quest is a rite of passage that allows her to define her own place in the
complex totality of cultures that is Botanica.
The book is easy to read, and yet it explores complex ideas. It is very inventive, but
I found it a little hard to come to grips with the somewhat formulaic structure and the
descriptions and stories began to get a little tedious. Lillah herself is a delight, but
overall the book fails to deliver on its promise.