Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Rose Grower by Michelle de Kretser

It isn't often that I give up on a book partway through, but that's what happened in this case. (I made it to page 80.) I liked another of de Kretser's books - The Hamilton Case - which was set in historical Sri Lanka. The Rose Grower is set in Gascony during the time of the French Revolution. Earlier this year, I spent three weeks hiking through the same places mentioned in the novel, so that was another appeal factor for me. Plus, there is Sophie, the rose grower of the title, who is a passionate gardener, determined to breed a dark red repeat-blooming rose. Botany and gardening hook me every time.

Except for this time. It isn't a bad book, it just isn't the book for me, right now. It's about an aristocratic family that has fallen on hard times - and times are about to get even harder, with the revolt of the peasants imminent. There are three daughters: Claire, Sophie and Mathilde. An American artist, Stephen, crashes his hot air balloon near their estate and then falls in love with Claire, the beautiful one, and she returns the attraction, although she is already married (to a brute who isn't around much). Sophie pines for Stephen's attention while a local doctor, Joseph, is secretly pining for Sophie. Ho hum. All that mushy, unrequited love stuff turned me off and I found I didn't care about the characters at all. Except for Mathilde, the youngest, who quotes Rousseau and is leaning towards vegetarianism.

I would recommend this to readers who like Jane Austen.

No comments: