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Book Reviews

The Battle for the Black Fen is a deftly written work of eco-fiction which sheds piercing light on our current environmental crisis.

Liz CunninghamOcean Advocate

“The Battle of the Black Fen” is the culmination of Annis Pratt’s Infinite Games series where the Marshlanders of all communities gather to take back their marshes and way of life to be free from oppression. It is a journey to communicate plans for the battle with the various communities and to gather them together. Two themes were intriguing to me: One, living in tune with the environment with a non-exploitive attitude with the fowl, flora, and fauna; and two, creating a society where all persons are important and all are winners – even the former oppressors. This theme is evidence of an ‘infinite game’ as opposed to a ‘finite game’ where there is a winner and a loser.

I hadn’t read the first 3 books in awhile but was able to follow along with the characters, places, themes with ease. The introduction helped bridge the gap. Dr. Pratt’s knowledge and research into ecology and the Anglian Fens is quite evident in the abundance of plants, food choices, and geography of marshes.

I enjoyed this ecofiction/historical novel, which is a new genre for me. As ecofiction it reflects the reliance of a people who live in close harmony with their surroundings; in this case the marshes of the Anglian Fen. As history, the novel is based on the 17th – 20th century struggle of people oppressed by those interested only in using the land for their profit – and surprisingly current – the environmentalists versus the corporations.

One phrase remains with me: As leaders Margaret and Richard, separate before the battle they agree they are going ‘about the business of the world.’ And so might we.

Jean Saul

The Marshlanders by Annis Pratt is a cleverly woven tale about the interaction of two very different worlds. She draws heavily on her background knowledge of the world of the riverbank and fills her story with characters, who live in and love the natural world of the marshlands. They struggle to save their environment from the advances of those who seek to change it for monetary gain.

The heroine of the story is a young girl who is thrown into a series of dangerous adventures in the quest to save the marshlands and, in this first book of the series, we see her grow from childhood into womanhood. It is an enchanting story, full of much to interest the reader as well as to entertain. The author’s prose style, defined by her American heritage and her career as a University Professor of English, is clear and easy to read. A Delight!

Linda Watson

Local author Annis Pratt is on the move. Though the Birmingham resident and former college professor is now retired, she certainly doesn’t appear to be altering her pace. As a community activist, writer, facilitator, and educator, Pratt is well known for her intellectual and philosophical prowess.

However, it is for her latest accomplishment as a novelist that Ms. Pratt took some time to discuss the journey toward the achievement of her dream.

“I wanted to be a poet and realized I couldn’t support my family being a writer,” Pratt shared. “So I went off to be a college professor. Every time I changed jobs I kept trying to get back to the writer … Being able to get to be a writer at last is really nice.” And now, with the recent publication of her first novel The Marshlanders, Pratt is beginning to enjoy the hard-earned fruits of her labor.

Though perhaps not a poet by profession, the sweep of Annis Pratt’s life has indeed been poetry in motion.

Megan ShafferBirmingham Patch Night Light Revue

The Marshlanders would … serve well as reading material for English or creative writing courses. Since the book is a relatively easy read (though riveting and entertaining), I recommend it be used in lower-level college courses such as freshman or sophomore levels. It would even do well in courses previously mentioned at the high school level due to its reader friendliness, writing style, and pace.

The Marshlanders may offer insight and a perspective to a student regarding the survival and perseverance of people amidst hostile environments. It’s a story of good and evil, as well as a tale of overcoming obstacles, thus possibly providing readers with the inspiration to keep going even when times in life look bleak.

Kelly VanBurenFemSpec magazine

As time rolls on, America’s wetlands are more and more threatened.

“The Marshlanders” tells the story of a clash between those who love the wetlands and their unique state and those who want to see them drained for development and other uses. A story of accepting nature and defending it against those who would defile it, “The Marshlanders” should prove to be a fascinating read with much to think about.

Annis Pratt, a Michigan author who summers on the Betsie River, has published “The Marshlanders.” The novel features characters who travel among the creatures Pratt knows from kayaking the Betsie — mink, otters, frogs, turtles, deer and birds.

It’s the story of conflict between self-sustaining communities and others who want to drain the wetlands for agricultural development. Pratt’s previous nonfiction books, “Archetypal Patterns in Women’s Fiction” and “Dancing with Goddesses,” won awards. Pratt taught English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for 20 years, commuting from Michigan each week. “

Annis Pratt’s novels are full of passion for the natural world and enthusiasm for the details of everyday life. Her invented worlds are more realistic than fantastic, and her speculative fiction imagines ways to live in harmony with each other and with our planet. Infinite Games is a four-novel series about Marshlanders who seek harmony with the Earth and each other.

Dr. Annis Pratt brings to her work not only the manners of trustworthy scholarship, but also an absorbing ability to blend oppositional ideas and factions into a brilliant discussion about meaning in literature, myth and poetics.

Gathering a bounty of poetry and lyric lines from authors in Canada, Britain, and the United States, Dr. Pratt creates an insightful structural analysis that references archetypalists, myth critics, feminist theologians, feminist neo-Jungians, and feminist archeologists. The voices of men as well as women inhabit her lyceum. But more so, it is her own sub-textual voice running under the words, her insistence that her inquiry be one of passionate intensity rather than one of unyielding codification, that ultimately causes her work to be truly original, truly valuable.

Clarissa Pinkola EstésDiplomate psychoanalyst, author of "Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype".

Provides a mature and useful alternative to hegemonic Freudian and Lacanian approaches to literature and psychology and a significant feminist revision of Jungian thought. Its scope, from …the medieval to the present in history, and the prepatriarchal to the apatriarchal in culture, is especially impressive.

Estella LauterPoet Laureate for Door County, Wisconsin,

A brilliant feminist revision of archetypal analysis…highly recommended for those interested in archetypal criticism, women and religion, and religion and literature.

In contrast to the traditional European and North American assumption of mind mastering nature, Pratt’s conclusion supports the ‘Gaia’ concept of the earth as an interactive, interdependent gestalt of life forms.  She redefines archetypes as elements in an interwoven matrix comprising earth, humans, and other living beings.

Cynthia HahnCanadian Literature

“It is not often that a reader wants to kick off her shoes, settle down in a comfortable chair, and enjoy a work of meticulous literary scholarship. But Annis Pratt’s Archetypal Patterns in Women’s Fiction encourages just that.

Partly it is a matter of style: Pratt writes with an elegant lucidity. Her prose soars and sails, carrying the reader happily along.  Partly it is a matter of substance: Pratt assesses how for 300 years women have maintained their own tradition of writing fiction. She invites us to share in the celebration of that accomplishment.”

Cathy N. DavidsonMs. Magazine

The Council for Wisconsin Writers presents the first prize for Booklength Nonfiction written during the year 1981 to Annis Pratt’s Archetypal Patterns in Women’s Fiction: A beautifully written book on a topic that breaks new ground in literary and feminist criticism. Pratt and associates have drawn on a wealth of materials (over 300 novels written by women) to uncover certain “archetypal patterns”—characters, situations, and themes which recur in women’s fiction. Reading the book is a process of discovery. Though Pratt treats the subject with a rigorous scholarly perspective, she creates a kind of history of women’s writing and tells her story with obvious sensitivity.

Ecofictions are a new and important genre in literature. Annis Pratt has based her story on a conflict from three hundred years ago that continues today, between the unthinking drive toward industrialization and resource consumption and the growing awareness that our actions have irrevocable consequences for the Earth that sustains us. We need new ways of thinking and feeling about our place in the natural world. Stories like this help us imagine those new ways, even as we are entertained by the human drama of characters and plot, war and love.