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Whorticulture by Marie-Anne Mancio

Whorticulture (2012)

by Marie-Anne Mancio

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2013515,329 (3.96)2



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Really loved the historical aspect of this collection of short stories (that really is more than just a collection, because each story in the sequence includes a character from the story before, so they are more of a continuation). They weren't really full stories in themselves, each character got only 30 or so pages, but for short stories they were detailed enough and entertaining enough to keep me reading. I especially enjoyed the character's voices, as they were narrating their own stories often from their childhoods so the reader would know exactly how they found themselves in that particular situation. My favorite by far was the second story which took place in San Francisco before and during the gold rush - while the characters weren't particularly exciting or well-written, the story was so historically detailed that I was pulled in anyway. ( )
  Gwnfkt12 | Jun 4, 2016 |
Four women who have never met, or even know of each others existence, but yet they are all connected through one man. It takes place during antebellum period, which was a much different time period than today's time, so the subject matter wasn't as controversial as I once thought before opening the book.

You can tell that a lot of research and studying went into the making of this book which was full of detail and realistic scenarios that might have happened during this time period.

At first I was concerned that this book was going to be about nothing but whores, but it turned out to be so much more. Its about survival as a woman, and doing what they felt they had to, in order to get through life and make their life work.

The book categorizes men and other people into one large group, which I found a bit untrue and a bit jaded like. They go over how all men are bad people, and to me that is just over categorizing.

Overall I found the book to be accurate to the time period, entertaining, and dramatic to the point of intrigue, but not to the point of being over the top. I'd rate this book at 5/5. ( )
  lizasarusrex | Nov 11, 2014 |
Note: I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

These four nineteenth century American short stories are compelling. The stories are linked by each woman’s will to survive and their will to do whatever they have to. There is a great deal of research that had gone into creating these stories and the women’s lives. The stories are informative and vivid. The only problem I had with these stories is that they needed a long introduction into the women’s back-stories that slows the pace down.

Also on http://lrjohnson13.blogspot.com/2012/12/whorticulture-by-marie-anne-mancio.html ( )
  wolfangel87 | Dec 4, 2012 |
The more I read this book, the more I enjoyed it. Fascinating details about the antebellum and about women struggling at a time of slavery and few ways for women to support themselves without a man's help.. ( )
  sandrector | Sep 12, 2012 |
This is a very unusual book. I won it through LibraryThing's Member Giveaway in exchange for a review; otherwise I'm not sure I would have finished it. Yet in the end I'm glad I did finish it.

The title is just what it appears to be, a play on "whore" and "horticulture". (I'm sure there's a word for that; conflation?) For the first part: The lives of four young women of antebellum America are highlighted, and through them the expectations and limitations of women in the time period. Four young women begin as innocents, with their own ideas of what life will be like; four young women wind up with their innocence shattered, their expectations crumpled. Life acts on these girls – rarely do any of them have the chance to take action to change their own circumstances, and when they do make the attempt it tends not to work out well for them. This is not a book of erotica, much less a romance novel – there are some scenes which border on the graphic but nothing to compare to most of what's out there. It is more than anything a sociological study of the circumstances leading up to different forms of prostitution – by its legal definition as well as circumstantial – through four (five, in a way) separate but intersecting stories. The young bride solidly and terribly under her husband's thumb and the young woman attempting to build a business and maintain an illicit love affair are not much better off than the actual prostitutes – "owned", in a way, by their madams. This is one of those books which scours away all the little wishful 21st century fantasies of a simpler life in a simpler time; this is one of those books which leaves all the Happily-Ever-After endings looking kind of silly and impossible.

For the second part of the title: Throughout the book is woven the language of flowers, and language relating to flowers and plants. This was obviously done very deliberately, but the intention was not so obtrusive as to be annoying.

In some ways it is not an easy read. It's set in the present tense, which can be off-putting. And the subject matter is difficult. I don't think it will ruin anyone's reading experience (and might serve as fair warning) to say that the closest thing to a happy ending in this book is not very happy at all. No one is entirely good in these stories, and no one is entirely happy, even at their happiest – misery runs thick and heavy for these women. Innocence is largely a matter of ignorance, and the ignorance is massive, though short-lived. It's fascinating to see how these girls' lives spiral downward, and disheartening. There is a spirit and a sense of humor to the points of view which both makes it easier and makes it harder to watch. This is a book after which I didn't much like anyone, but particularly men, and after which I probably should have reached for Winnie-the-Pooh or something equally antidotal. ( )
  Stewartry | Aug 24, 2012 |
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Dear Father,
Today, you were officially declared dead.
Sometimes, when he says, “What did they teach you in that village?” I think of the many things the Jarretts taught me. Like what time the sun rises, or how to mend a spade; how to tell when the chickens are ailing, or to soothe a nettle sting.
He teaches me words: long words, foreign words, words that trick and tease with their strange spellings. Words I must make odd mouth shapes to pronounce. I learn to speak in the voices of dead people and faraway people.
With a long silver spoon I stole from a tea shop, he feeds me mouthfuls of ice cream. An exuberant curve, his body leans into my collarbone. We kiss between bites. Lips tingling, sticky with slithers of blackberry ice; ice cream drips; skin dyes indigo. Then we are lying down on the floor, him pulling at petticoats, unlacing stays. My elbow, sharp as a bird wing, grazes the wall.
Seraphine is my whore name. There is another name, the one I was given at birth. That I won’t tell. It was a godly name and I am not so much a godly girl. Mrs. Hill says no-one cares to hear the stories of whores, seeing as how most of those stories is out and out lies and, even when they is not lies, they is full of truths godly people shirk from.
It is not the leap of an acrobat – silver-spangled, on thin, high wire – that makes me gasp. It is my husband vomiting into the frosty air, his body folding in on itself like a broken puppet, his bile pooling on the carpet.
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