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Earthly Joys: A Novel by Philippa Gregory
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Earthly Joys: A Novel (original 1998; edition 1998)

by Philippa Gregory

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1,008288,471 (3.44)53
Member:ryner
Title:Earthly Joys: A Novel
Authors:Philippa Gregory
Info:Touchstone (2005), Paperback, 528 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:2008, fiction, historical, england, europe, france, john tradescant the younger, john tradescant the elder, george villiers, war, charles i, james i, 1600s, gardening, robert cecil

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Earthly Joys by Philippa Gregory (1998)

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Philippa Gregory takes a step outside her Tudor / War of the Roses comfort zone in this thoroughly enjoyable book set in early 17th-century England and focusing on the comparatively unfamiliar figure of John Tradescant the Elder. The most celebrated horticulturalist and naturalist of the age, Tradescant served successively as gardener to Sir Robert Cecil and the Duke of Buckingham - a task which takes him across Europe in search of new and exotic specimens for his lords' gardens. Many of the plants he brings back have become mainstays of English gardens - the horse-chestnut, for example. Gregory conveys the thrilling possibilities of an age when any journey might result in discoveries of plants and animals - and an age when an expanding world was also the catalyst for new ideas about duty, kingship and the rights of the people. As Tradescant watches from the outer ring of court hangers-on, he sees the English monarchy losing its place in people's hearts as the throne passes from Elizabeth to James and then to Charles. Times are dangerous and radical ideas even begin to take root in the loyal Tradescant's own family.

I haven't read many of Gregory's books and I enjoyed this much more than I expected to. My main criticism would be that, as ever, she can't resist sexing up history a little bit - and I suspect that poor old Tradescant would turn in his grave if he could see what his fictional self was getting up to. But, if you take this with a small pinch of salt, it offers a glimpse into an aspect of British history that very rarely crops up in novels, and the combination of sprightly writing and loving descriptions of gardens should appeal to lots of green-fingered readers. For myself, I very much enjoyed the chance to learn more about Tradescant - a remarkable man - and I'll be looking out for a proper biography in the hope of filling in some of the gaps (and learning more about his travels, which were much more significant than Gregory gives them credit for, I think). In any case, it's always good to find a novel set in a less familiar period of history, and I'm going to be reading the sequel, Virgin Earth, before too long.

For a full review, please see my blog:
http://theidlewoman.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/earthly-joys-philippa-gregory.html ( )
  TheIdleWoman | Nov 24, 2013 |
Another wonderful book written by Philippa Gregory, This is a story of the historical account of England in the 17th Century as told through the words and work of the Royal Gardener, who is very much involved in the lives of the King and his advisers. Interesting and fun reading for those who enjoy British history be it historical fiction or factual. Philippa Gregory never disappoints me. I learned much as I follow John Tradescant in his quest for rare and exotic flora to bring to the King's grand gardens. ( )
  luckycharm6139 | Jul 10, 2013 |
I love Philippa Gregory. She's gifted writer and has the wonderful ability to make her characters come alive. I think there's a sequel to this story so I'm going to look it up! ( )
  coffeenut1992 | May 16, 2013 |
Summary From Publishers Weekly
Seventeenth-century England is the setting for this engaging historical novel based on the life of John Tradescant, a gardener of common birth who transforms plain plots of land into slices of heaven on earth. As vassal to the secretary of state, Sir Robert Cecil, Tradescant—who, as fate would have it, had no sense of smell—places his master's garden above all else, much to the chagrin of his wife, Elizabeth, and young son, J. Tradescant's affinity for botanicals is matched by his thirst for adventure; in the service of his lord, he travels to distant lands to defend his country's honor (and collect cuttings of rare and exotic plants). When Tradescant is summoned by King James I's closest confidante, the dark-haired and devious Duke of Buckingham, he is immediately taken by the nobleman's beauty. Devotion soon turns to erotic obsession, and Tradescant must face the consequences of loving a fickle, heartless man. Gregory (The Virgin's Lover; The Other Boleyn Girl) renders lush details of plants and clever commentary on the passions and power plays of the British royal court.

I forgot just how much I love Philippa Gregory's books. When I was in college, I loved her; The Other Boleyn Girl got me hooked, and then I devoured her Wildacre Series (which was good, but may win the title of most depressing book, definitely a 'And Then Things Got Worse' type of book...), etc, but I hadn't picked anything up by her since then. I'm glad I did...

I really liked this book. I love flowers, so I found the descriptions of the gardens and flowers really soothing and beautiful, and the first half of the book became my comforting, calming afternoon read. And then when John falls head over heels for the Duke of Buckingham, it picked up a lot. After that section ended, I still enjoyed it, although by the end of the book it did feel a bit long. 30 years is lot to cover in one book. Because of that, I'm not sure I'll read it again, at least not for a while.

That said, I really liked this book. ( )
  shojo_a | Apr 4, 2013 |
Summary From Publishers Weekly
Seventeenth-century England is the setting for this engaging historical novel based on the life of John Tradescant, a gardener of common birth who transforms plain plots of land into slices of heaven on earth. As vassal to the secretary of state, Sir Robert Cecil, Tradescant—who, as fate would have it, had no sense of smell—places his master's garden above all else, much to the chagrin of his wife, Elizabeth, and young son, J. Tradescant's affinity for botanicals is matched by his thirst for adventure; in the service of his lord, he travels to distant lands to defend his country's honor (and collect cuttings of rare and exotic plants). When Tradescant is summoned by King James I's closest confidante, the dark-haired and devious Duke of Buckingham, he is immediately taken by the nobleman's beauty. Devotion soon turns to erotic obsession, and Tradescant must face the consequences of loving a fickle, heartless man. Gregory (The Virgin's Lover; The Other Boleyn Girl) renders lush details of plants and clever commentary on the passions and power plays of the British royal court.

I forgot just how much I love Philippa Gregory's books. When I was in college, I loved her; The Other Boleyn Girl got me hooked, and then I devoured her Wildacre Series (which was good, but may win the title of most depressing book, definitely a 'And Then Things Got Worse' type of book...), etc, but I hadn't picked anything up by her since then. I'm glad I did...

I really liked this book. I love flowers, so I found the descriptions of the gardens and flowers really soothing and beautiful, and the first half of the book became my comforting, calming afternoon read. And then when John falls head over heels for the Duke of Buckingham, it picked up a lot. After that section ended, I still enjoyed it, although by the end of the book it did feel a bit long. 30 years is lot to cover in one book. Because of that, I'm not sure I'll read it again, at least not for a while.

That said, I really liked this book. ( )
  shojo_a | Apr 4, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0743272528, Paperback)

Whether he is nurturing a single rare seedling into a blossoming tree or planning acres of exquisitely conceived royal gardens, John Tradescant's fame and skill as a gardener are unsurpassed in seventeenth-century England. But it is Tradescant's clear-sighted honesty and loyalty that make him an invaluable servant, and in his role as informal confidant during garden strolls with Sir Robert Cecil, adviser to King James I, he witnesses the making of history, from the Gunpowder Plot to the accession of King Charles I and the growing animosity between Parliament and court.

Tradescant's talents soon come to the attention of the most powerful man in the country, the irresistible Duke of Buckingham, the lover of King Charles I. Tradescant has always been faithful to his masters, but Buckingham is unlike any he has ever known: flamboyant, outrageously charming, and utterly reckless. Every certainty upon which Tradescant has based his life -- his love of his wife and children, his passion for his work, his loyalty to his country -- is shattered as he follows Buckingham to court, to war, and to the forbidden territories of human love.

From the details of garden design and innovation to the politics of a growing revolution which was to kill a king and turn a world upside down, Philippa Gregory once again makes history come alive through the people whose passions shaped that world.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:59 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

An advisor to King James I, Sir Robert Cecil relies on the practical advice of John Tradescant, a gardener, who becomes an eyewitness to the historical events that are shaping a turbulent England on the brink of civil war.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 6 descriptions

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