Lauren Groff’s New Novel The Vaster Wilds Is A Raw And Occasionally Grotesque Elizabethan Novel

by Samantha Ladwig

It could be argued that not much happens in Lauren Groff’s seventh novel, The Vaster Wilds, which opens with an unnamed servant girl fleeing her newly arrived Jamestown-esque community in the dead of night. The year is 1609, or as we now refer to it, the “starving time,” a period when the actual population of Jamestown dropped from around 500 people to less than 100. Despite its bleakness, our heroine chooses to trade one darkness—that of assured hunger, disease, and death—for another: the unknown. Because while there are dangers in the wild, at least there is a chance at survival, possibly even a better life.

The Vaster Wilds is Groff at her finest. It combines some of her favorite subjects—religion and faith, the harsh beauty of nature, being a woman—and wraps them all in Elizabethan language. Raw and at times grotesque in its descriptions, there is a playfulness to the writing. Groff is obviously having fun as she poetically ties memories together to paint a portrait of hope surviving in the dark. This is not a light read, but it’s a must. 

Image ViaRiverhead Books

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