The Rose Grower

The Rose Grower

Book - 2001
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Writing with poignancy and mesmerizing detail, Michelle de Kretser has penned a haunting tale set against the madness of the French Revolution -- a wistful, elegantly rendered novel of unrequited love and personal triumph in a world gone tragically awry.

The 1789 storming of the Bastille has brought France to the brink of revolution. Yet in the serene heart of the French province of Gascony, little has changed in a hundred years -- and the events in Paris seem but a distant thunder.

Indeed, the dramatic crash landing of American artist and amateur balloonist Stephen Fletcher sparks far more excitement. Stephen lands in the pastoral world of a magistrate and his three daughters -- ethereal Claire, pert and precocious Mathilde, and plain, sensible Sophie, who lovingly tends her rose garden as she simmers with unfulfilled longings.

As the revolution brings murder, terror, and fear into the remote Gascon countryside, Stephen finds himself enchanted by the angelic Claire. Yet he is also strangely drawn to Sophie, whose courage and compassion sustain them all, from her family to the quixotic, tormented physician who silently adores her. And even as Sophie keeps a tender secret of her own, she works toward realizing yet another dream: the miracle of an original repeat-flowering crimson rose -- a hopeful symbol of an unblighted future.
Publisher: New York : Bantam Books, 2001.
Edition: Bantam trade pbk. ed.
ISBN: 9780553381214
Characteristics: 323 p. ; 22 cm.


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Oct 10, 2009

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. 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.


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