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Rose Grower, The (edition 2000)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0553381210, Paperback)July 14, 1789, Montsignac, Gascony. The Saint-Pierre family is caring for American artist Stephen Fletcher after he's fallen from his balloon and landed in a haystack. Jean-Baptiste de Saint-Pierre is a magistrate with three daughters. Claire, the eldest, is beautiful and married (in a way that seems to require little personal involvement) to the odious and malodorous aristo Hubert. Sophie is plain, single, intelligent, good, competent, and obsessed with growing roses. And Mathilde is 8 and entertainingly precocious: when Stephen remarks on how he adores children because "they are so ... innocent and yet so perceptive in their apprehension of the world," Matty dismisses him instantly. "'Oh no--another Rousseauist,' said the child with unconcealed disappointment. 'I'm not like that at all.'" And then there's Brutus, a dog that "only bites people whose smell he doesn't like."
But the Saint-Pierres' lives, like those of everyone else in the locality, are about to fracture as the Revolution gathers momentum and the shock waves from Paris push out into the provinces. The novel's epigraph--"Small change, small change," Napoleon Bonaparte's reaction to a battlefield full of casualties--signals it to be an exploration of small people caught up in big events. And, indeed, Michelle de Kretser takes us from the optimistic start of the Revolution as it manifests in Montsignac, through factionalization, fanaticism and Terror, denunciations and betrayals, through love and loyalty to a quiet, damaged aftermath, with a vivid cast of surprising heroes, unexpected villains, and not-quite-innocent bystanders. The Rose Grower is a hypnotically engrossing work, illuminating the biggest of issues with the lightest, most fragrant of touches. --Lisa Gee
(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:40:08 -0400)
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