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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
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on September 4, 2011
Excellent read and a gifted wordsmith. We just visited the archipelago of Hadia Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands) off the coast of British Columbia and saw the remnant of this famous tree, cut down by a now infamous logger/environmentalist with a manifesto. The author's chapters on trees themselves (e.g. most of a tree is actually scaffolding) were well written as were chapters on the history of the Haida people. The man who did the dirty deed (Grant Hadwin) is given a few chapters but the book is so much more than his story. His motivations are revealed as more complex than just the work of a "nutcase". The author provokes the reader to look at his/her own consumption of natural resources. The book is very thorough in so many ways. My only minor complaint in the writing style was that it was a bit disjointed in how the chapters were arranged and didn't flow quite as smoothly as I would have liked. The author also could have hooked the reader a bit more at the beginning with more of the story of the "man" and saved the history of logging to a later chapter. I could see how it might become a more tedious read for some. But it is a fabulous place steeped in mystery and history and reading the book now makes me want to re-visit the place. Just don't rent a car from Budget at the airport or they will charge you for the road dirt that accumulates on your car for the 3 km drive on an <horrors> unpaved road out to the Golden Spruce Trail from Port Clements.
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on July 21, 2007
A riveting read with breathtaking scope, considering that the core is a mystery story without resolution. Vaillant takes the reader on a walk through a vast tract of background, covering Canadian history from first contact, Pacific logging practices, Grant Hadwin's ancestry, Haida Gwaii traditions, and environmental opinion. All this with the pageturning energy of a murder mystery. But there's no convenient good/bad guys; there are complicated, layered, and very current issues to be weighed.

I think the ultimate beauty of the book is that it doesn't deign to make decisions about the story it's telling or tell you how you should feel about it, it just gives you all you could possibly want to know to draw your own conclusions, and thus leaves you with a very powerful, lasting feeling.

Instantly hit my favorite all-time list.
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on August 24, 2012
The Golden Spruce was borrowed at the start of a trip to Haida Gwaii. This book was a stimulating companion during the 18 hour ferry ride from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert and the 7 hour ferry trip to Haida Gwaii. We were staying on the north end of the island and woke the first morning to gale force winds and sheets of rain which continued for our stay. Our escape from natures forces was to walk on the Golden Spruce Trail through the old growth forest to a bench beside the river where the fallen golden spruce remains.

This compelling story added a great deal to our Haida Gwaii adventure and to the converstions that we had along the way. Purchasing copies of this book from Amazon completed this extraordinary journey to the island west of west and to wonder if Grant Hadwin still resides in the forests that he loved.
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on August 15, 2007
I seldom read non-fiction, but this was a book club choice and I am very glad I read it. John Vaillant's prose is rich and quite poetic at times. But the engrossing writing does not overshadow the tale Vaillant set himself to tell. The main thread of the book is the story of how a centuries old golden spruce, that was sacred to the Haida, was cut down by Grant Hadwin, a logger gone environmentalist gone mad. In a more in-depth journalistic style and skillfully researched, Vaillant also tells us the historical factors behind the logging industry in the West Coast, and the difficult relationship between loggers and the indigenous people of the area. This is a multi-layered book, partially mystery, partially historical account, definitely haunting in the environmental questions it poses.
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on March 2, 2013
Ordered on the advise of a stranger I was takling with who was visiting the west coast. I never heard of the book or Vaillant. Best advise I could have taken, love the writhing and descriptions he goes into.
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on January 21, 2013
I really enjoyed this book. The author does a great job of telling this real life story. He not only brings us into the world of the spruce, it's connection to the native people & their history. But also that of Grant Hadwin, making him a relatable and sympathetic antagonist. Filled with drama & intrigue, it is also an interesting study of human nature & psychology as we see Grant slowly decend into apparent insanity. This is one of those books that you can't put down, drawing you in from page one and keeping you there until the very last word. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good read.
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on June 14, 2007
This won the 2005 Governor General's Award for non-fiction. It's core is about Grant Hadwin, an environmentalist who chopped down a 300 year old Sitka golden spruce, but a lot of other history is given: logging in British Columbia; the native Haida's culture and the influence European settlers had on them; the settlement of cities on the West coast. The mystery behind Hadwin's motive and his subsequent disappearance after destroying the sacred tree didn't interest me as much as the descriptions of the Haidi and the history of lumbering.
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on December 1, 2008
Even though this book has been out awhile I just stumbled across it a couple of months ago. It caught my eye because I have relatives who live on Haida Gwaii and just got back from visiting the beautiful island. Not only were the details about the loss of the beloved tree and the circumstances surrounding it fascinating, but the book also gave me alot of information about the logging industry (it's history, etc.) that I didn't know about. I highly recommend this book!
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on December 1, 2007
I completely agree with all other positive reviews, especially David Boe's response.

The emotions that this book elicits in the reader are difficult to describe in words. Vaillant's work has the ability to entertain readers of many different backgrounds and tastes. I found myself intentionally reading this book more slowly than others because I didn't want it to end.

Please do your heart, mind, and soul a favour and read this book.
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on April 25, 2006
This is a very informative and interesting story. This book gives the reader insight into the foresting industry and the things that drive it. In many ways, such a book is just what Hadwin hoped to inspire: I good hard look at the irony of saving one tree while destroying so many. I take away one star because it can be very fact heavy. However, I came away from the reading a much more informed person.
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