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Inspired by her uncle, Lisa Samson has communed with trees since her childhood. Tragically, a disease from mainland Europe now poses a very serious threat to the ash tree's survival. Epitaph for the Ash explores how barren our landscape could become without the ash's familiar branches protruding from limestone scars and chalky cliff faces.
The trees' grave prognosis takes on a personal resonance when, in the course of writing this book, Lisa is diagnosed with a brain tumour. While she receives treatment, and learns to walk and talk again, Lisa finds solace once more in the natural world. She continues to research her beloved forests, which once sheltered a wealth of flora and fauna, seeking out the possibilities that modern science might provide for their survival.
Taking us from the lowlands of Norfolk to northernmost reaches of the British Isles, Lisa's book is a celebration of the deep cultural and historical significance of the ash. As Lisa contemplates her own mortality, and the trees' likely fate emerges, Epitaph for the Ash offers up a rallying cry to treasure these remarkable woodlands while we still can, before it is too late.
An English language and literature specialist with many years' experience of teaching English and Italian, Lisa Samson is a Senior Lecturer in Writing at Leeds Beckett University. Lisa's first novel, Talk To Me, came second in the Virginia Prize for Fiction 2011. She has been published in short form both in print and online.
"Fascinating [...] Her pilgrimage to discover the present state of the ash in the UK, and the work that is being done to accommodate or counter ash dieback, is both a labour of love and an extraordinary achievement, especially given the heart-rending physical limitations Samson eventually endures as a result of life-saving surgery"
"Everywhere Lisa's powerful affinity with the natural world is palpable [...] Samson is right to urge appreciation of what we have; her book will also help raise awareness of the need to protect our invaluable natural heritage for future generations"
– Literary Review
"Lisa Samson's [...] quest to travel the length and breadth of the land takes us on a leafy green jewel of a journey into a kingdom that will change the way you look at the ash tribe forever"
– BBC Wildlife