"For years I had wandered Australia with an aching heart. Everywhere I had ever travelled across the vast expanse of the fabulous country where I was born I had seen devastation, denuded hills, eroded slopes, weeds from all over the world, feral animals, open-cut mines as big as cities, salt rivers, salt earth, abandoned townships, whole beaches made of beer cans..."
One bright day in December 2001, sixty-two-year-old Germaine Greer found herself confronted by an irresistible challenge in the shape of sixty hectares of dairy farm, one of many in south-east Queensland that, after a century of logging, clearing and downright devastation, had been abandoned to their fate.
She didn't think for a minute that by restoring the land she was saving the world. She was in search of heart's ease. Beyond the acres of exotic pasture grass and soft weed and the impenetrable curtains of tangled Lantana canes there were Macadamias dangling their strings of unripe nuts, and Black Beans with red and yellow pea flowers growing on their branches … and the few remaining White Beeches, stupendous trees up to forty metres in height, logged out within forty years of the arrival of the first white settlers. To have turned down even a faint chance of bringing them back to their old haunts would have been to succumb to despair.
Once the process of rehabilitation had begun, the chance proved to be a dead certainty. When the first replanting shot up to make a forest and rare caterpillars turned up to feed on the leaves of the new young trees, she knew beyond doubt that at least here biodepletion could be reversed.
Greer describes herself as an old dog who succeeded in learning a load of new tricks, inspired and rejuvenated by her passionate love of Australia and of Earth, most exuberant of small planets.
Germaine Greer is an Australian academic and journalist, and a major feminist voice of the mid-twentieth century. She gained her PhD from the University of Cambridge in 1967. She is Professor Emerita of English Literature and Comparative Studies at the University of Warwick. Greer's ideas have created controversy ever since The Female Eunuch became an international bestseller in 1970. She is the author of many other books including Sex and Destiny: The Politics of Human Fertility (1984); The Change: Women, Ageing and the Menopause (1991); Shakespeare's Wife (2007); and The Whole Woman (1999).
"An eco-love letter about saving and reviving trees on her farm in Australia"
– The Times
"We love: White Beech [...] Her new book is written not by a passionate young feminist but by a woman in her seventies who has lost none of her energy to speak out for causes [...] I am sure listeners will find her love of her motherland, and for her sister, both touching and revealing"
"In 2001, the 62-year-old Greer took on the "irresistible" challenge of rehabilitating 60 hectares of a dairy farm in south-east Queensland, which after a century of logging, clearing and downright devastation had been abandoned to its fate. Seduced in particular by the few remaining white beech trees, this is her memoir both of this extraordinary project, and of her love affair with the forest and her native Australia"
"Searching for somewhere to archive her papers, in 2001, Germaine Greer was taken to an abandoned dairy farm in Queensland. White Beech: The Rainforest Years tells the story of her decade-long battle to rehabilitate the damaged forest of white beeches and other trees she found there. Working with her sister, a botanist, she puts all her remarkable passion and a lot of money into the project"
– Conde Nast Traveller
"An extraordinary travelogue: a love letter to Germaine Greer's birth country and an intense biography of the land"
– Catholic Herald
"A hymn to botany as a discipline and a vehicle of heritage [...] Even when she's lyrical, her botany is rigorous"
– New Statesman
"Wonderfully vivid descriptions of the forest [...] The book is full of lovely lists of the wildlife that has returned"
– Eithne Farry, Sunday Express
"Passionate and eccentric [...] A lifetime of activism, bloody-mindedness, academic punctiliousness, men-baiting and solidarity has produced a wonderfully unexpected book"
– Sunday Times
"A splendid love letter to the recipient of her affections [...] Beautifully crafted descriptions that dot the book like jewels"
"There is nothing touchy-feely about Germaine Greer's vision of perfection [...] It is a love affair with nature the real, nature as battleground, beautiful in its violence"
– Evening Standard
"Greer is a talented wordsmith and her vivid descriptions transport readers into a habitat that thrums with noise and movement and life [...] White Beech is a book to be read, considered and discussed"
"She has thrown as much intelligence and energy into her blessed plot as into this lively, loving, rollicking account of her ecological adventure"
"Never doubt Greer's brilliant power of language. White Beech drips with lavish, sensual, technically demanding words, used uncompromisingly [...] as maverick and unyielding as its author [...] poetic and moving"
– The Times
"Greer is as enraptured and as protective as a lover when describing the richness of the rainforest"
"Wonderfully idiosyncratic [...] I loved it. It's a tale of a fabulous obsession, and it is maddeningly brilliant"
– Sunday Telegraph
"I love her, even when she says mad things"
– India Knight, Red
"Germaine Greer in one of the cornerstones of feminism and she has a sense of humour, which I think is absolutely essential"
– Jo Brand, Red
"I can't overstate the impact that Greer's work has had on my own writing. Her weaving together of personal narrative, pop culture analysis and rigorous academic scholarship has been tremendously influential"
– Naomi Wolf, Red
"Germaine is a one-off. I haven't always agreed with her but she has consistently fought for women. We owe her a tremendous amount. Best of all, she never cares about being popular. She's fearless"
– Janet Street-Porter, Red
"Germaine Greer helped ignite the touchpaper of women's liberation. She's an intellectual force, often great fun, and a firecracker – whose sparks fly in many, sometimes unpredictable, directions"
– Kirsty Wark, Red
"A much-anticipated memoir [...] four decades after her controversial ideas first started shaking things up, she is still going strong [...] few thinkers have had such an impact on women's lives"
– Viv Groskop, Red