The Rose Grower, Paperback
4 out of 5 (1 rating)


In a corner of south-western France, a young rose grower nurtures a private passion to breed an exotic new flower.

But the year is 1789, and the world is about to change...The Rose Grower throws a subtle, slanting light on the underside of history, as a young woman and her family are caught up in the bloodthirsty years of the French Revolution.

Her private passion is to create a repeat-flowering crimson rose, the first of its kind in Europe.

But, as public events in Paris are duplicated in Gascony, her world turns upside down.

An American balloonist falls out of the sky and into her life; while Joseph, a young working-class doctor, is also drawn into her orbit, and finds himself fatally torn between reason and desire, revolutionary zeal and unrequited love.




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I've had Michelle de Kretser's novel on my 'random F-Rev' to read list for a while, but only recently succeeded in borrowing a copy from the library, which I think was the right choice - although I enjoyed the author's beautiful writing and quirky humour, I don't think this one is a keeper. <i>The Rose Grower</i> is more a series of vignettes than a story, following the lives and loves of the St Pierre family of Gascony, south-west France, during the Revolution. Some readers might be put off by the slow pace and lack of structure, but I actually enjoyed the eccentric, free-wheeling narrative - reminding me of Daphne Du Maurier's <i>The Glass Blowers</i> in the form of an Audrey Tautou comedy - that allowed the characters to come to life and the scenery to take over the book!But, if you want an idea of the story, then the central series of events begins with Stephen Fletcher, an American balloonist, who falls out of the sky and falls in love with Claire St Pierre, a married woman. Her younger sister Sophie, the rose grower of the title, falls in love with Stephen, all the while unaware that Joseph Morel, the local doctor, is in love with her. Youngest sister Mathilde, the most inquisitive and imaginative of the three St Pierre girls, observes them all with the droll wisdom of an intelligent child, and the Revolution slowly filters down from Paris.The magic is in the language - de Kretser's descriptions of food, nature and Sophie's roses really leap off the page to captivate the senses. I almost want to start growing my own garden after reading about such beautiful flowers! <i>'[Robert le Diable] flowers late, providing colour at the end of the season, and its violet petals are splashed with cerise and scarlet. Later, they fade to a soft dove-grey. Sophie has a terrible weakness for it'.</i>I also liked the humour of the dialogue, but felt distanced from the characters by the omniscient narrator, in the mocking style of nineteenth century authors like Thackeray. I was able to escape into another place and time, though, which is all that matters! A lyrical and subtle take on the Revolution, from a very talented author. Recommended.

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