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Review of Hard By a Great Forest by Leo Vardiashvili

This debut is set in Eastern Europe, crossing the diverse landscape of  the country of Georgia from the bustling city of Tbilisi to the Caucasus mountains. We follow the story of Saba who returns from London to his homeland, Georgia, in search of his father. Saba’s journey sees him embark on a fast-paced adventure, meeting new faces, encountering ghosts from his past, avoiding the police and following clues carefully laid out by his older brother. 


Vardiashvili’s voice is unique; he writes with a confidence and infectious energy that naturally drew me in to the story. He paints a truly vivid picture of Georgia’s landscape, culture and people.

Hard By a Great Forest deftly navigates a wide range of emotional states, moving between pain, love, loss and humour with ease. I found myself smiling at the end of one chapter and all of a sudden in tears within the following pages. This debut is a triumph, a thrilling adventure which asks us to consider how we perceive family and the place that we call home. I don’t want to give too much away but I was pleased by the ending, it subverted my expectations and left me wanting to read more. I look forward to seeing what Leo does next!

Reviewed by Helen.

Hard by a Great Forest was published on 30/01/24 by Bloomsbury.

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