Arts and Entertainment

Peter Rabbit helps inspire author to save land

New York Times bestselling mystery novelist Elizabeth George launched her national book tour at the Whidbey Island Center for the Arts this week by donating $100,000 to help protect the island’s Trillium forest, and challenged other Whidbey artists to follow suit.

Inspired by the island’s beautiful forests, rural landscapes and pristine beaches, George moved to Whidbey Island five years ago. Many other artists and authors have moved to the island for the same reasons.

George’s donation will help the Whidbey Camano Land Trust save the 664-acre Trillium property, the island’s largest remaining contiguous forest. The Land Trust is in the midst of an ambitious campaign to raise $4.2 million by June 10 to buy the property so it won’t be developed.

The mystery novelist moved to Whidbey Island after more than 30 years in Orange County, Calif., where she watched the “concretization” of the landscape.

“Vast expanses of farmland in Southern California are now covered in concrete,” she said. “Once it’s paved, it’s lost forever.”

George’s book tour will take her back to Southern California, following stops in Seattle. The tour promotes her latest book, “This Body of Death.” Coincidentally, part of the story is set in the New Forest, an area in southern England with the largest remaining tracts of unenclosed pasture and forest in that country. Most of her crime novels are set in the United Kingdom and feature interesting characters including Scotland Yard Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley and Detective Sgt. Barbara Havers.

George is now working on a book set in the Lake District of England, where Beatrix Potter lived. Like George, Potter was a conservationist. She is best known as author and illustrator of “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” and other children’s books. Over the years, Potter bought neighboring farms to preserve them, and when she died in 1943 she left 4,000 acres to England’s National Trust. “The Lake District is the Lake District because of what Beatrix Potter did,” George said.

“One thing I like about the English is that they recognize and appreciate exactly what they have,” said George. “They’ve preserved the countryside for hundreds of years. I can walk the same trails and visit the same cottages that Jane Austen did. Much of the landscape has remained unchanged. They understand the simple truth about land: God ain’t making any more of it.”

To donate to the fundraising campaign, or for more information, visit www.savethe, call (360) 222-3310, or send your donation to the Whidbey Camano Land Trust, Attention: Save the Forest Now, 765 Wonn Road, Barn C-201, Greenbank, WA 98253.

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