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The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and…

The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession (1998)

by Susan Orlean

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,138484,579 (3.7)95
  1. 40
    The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett (sarah-e)
    sarah-e: A fascinating world with a similarly bizarre and superior main character.
  2. 10
    Fake: Forgery, Lies, & eBay by Kenneth Walton (stephmo)
    stephmo: Fake covers the world of art collecting in a similar way. There is a LaRoche-like individual present in that story as well.

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» See also 95 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 48 (next | show all)
I started reading about this book because I thought I was interested in learning about orchids and some of the culture around them. I found out that I am not *that* interested in orchids and Florida. I read the first 60 pages of this and it took me awhile to get through that. I kept finding other things (any other thing) to do rather than read this book. So, I ended up setting this aside.

The beginning of this book comes off as some strange ode to Florida; this really struck a false note with me because I went to Florida a lot as a kid (my grandparents lived there) and I do not like Florida...I will never like Florida.

After the diatribe about how awesome and unique Florida is the book goes into a ton of detail on orchids. This was kind of cool but it was just too much for me. The way Olean writes is almost overly descriptive; she has a habit of spending a long time describing things and making long lists of items which came off as a bit text-bookish and was just a huge info dump.

Overall this book just wasn’t my cup of tea. It was boring and a bit preachy about the wonders of Florida. I would recommend reading the first chapter of the book before buying and seeing how you like it; the first chapter is pretty representative of the book. ( )
1 vote krau0098 | May 10, 2018 |
I really enjoyed this - a well written investigative history of Florida, plants, orchids, crazy people and a bundle of other fascinating things. No real plot but definitely a story. ( )
  MizPurplest | Jan 15, 2018 |
bad. Gave to used books.
  jhawn | Jul 31, 2017 |
I listened to this book. It's nice to have someone else pronounce some of the official terms and names of flowers. It was interesting to see how obsessed people can get about anything and in this case - orchids as well as other plants. I'm not impressed with orchid hunters deliberately violating the law and pulling orchids out of protected parks or other countries. It was an interesting look at obsessions.
  taurus27 | Jul 7, 2017 |
Maybe my expectations were too high. I would have liked to learn more about orchids. I'd heard good things about this book, and it sounded like a fun read. In reality it was so boring I don't think I got much past 100 pages!

It didn't help that the writing style was so bad. As I read it I felt as though the author was trying to sound breathless as she related her "adventure." To make it worse, the information was very disorganized, with lengthy chapters discussing the history of orchid hunters (not necessarily in chronological order) or chapters full of miscellaneous facts thrown together (sounding very breathless) or others on the various "personalities" she met. Nothing was in any logical order and much of it seemed repetitive. And I still don't know what she was thinking when she said Florida was the last unexplored frontier in America?!? Florida???

Her description of LaRoche as "handsome" with his missing teeth, bad posture, foul language, beat up van full of soda cans, etc., made her sound like a silly schoolgirl with an immature (and unbelievable) crush! Plus, she described the clothing she wore on every outing with the guy! This is a serious look at the orchid industry?

Honestly, this is a marginally interesting story (and that's being generous) that was stretched into a very BORING book. Don't bother. ( )
  J.Green | Jan 10, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 48 (next | show all)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 044900371X, Paperback)

Orchidelirium is the name the Victorians gave to the flower madness that is for botanical collectors the equivalent of gold fever. Wealthy orchid fanatics of that era sent explorers (heavily armed, more to protect themselves against other orchid seekers than against hostile natives or wild animals) to unmapped territories in search of new varieties of Cattleya and Paphiopedilum. As knowledge of the family Orchidaceae grew to encompass the currently more than 60,000 species and over 100,000 hybrids, orchidelirium might have been expected to go the way of Dutch tulip mania. Yet, as journalist Susan Orlean found out, there still exists a vein of orchid madness strong enough to inspire larceny among collectors.

The Orchid Thief centers on south Florida and John Laroche, a quixotic, charismatic schemer once convicted of attempting to take endangered orchids from the Fakahatchee swamp, a state preserve. Laroche, a horticultural consultant who once ran an extensive nursery for the Seminole tribe, dreams of making a fortune for the Seminoles and himself by cloning the rare ghost orchid Polyrrhiza lindenii. Laroche sums up the obsession that drives him and so many others:

I really have to watch myself, especially around plants. Even now, just being here, I still get that collector feeling. You know what I mean. I'll see something and then suddenly I get that feeling. It's like I can't just have something--I have to have it and learn about it and grow it and sell it and master it and have a million of it.
Even Orlean--so leery of orchid fever that she immediately gives away any plant that's pressed upon her by the growers in Laroche's circle--develops a desire to see a ghost orchid blooming and makes several ultimately unsuccessful treks into the Fakahatchee. Filled with Palm Beach socialites, Native Americans, English peers, smugglers, and naturalists as improbably colorful as the tropical blossoms that inspire them, this is a lyrical, funny, addictively entertaining read. --Barrie Trinkle

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:44 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

"From Florida's swamps to its courtrooms, the New Yorker writer follows one deeply eccentric and oddly attractive man's possibly criminal pursuit of an endangered flower. Determined to clone the rare ghost orchid, Polyrrhiza lindenii, John Laroche leads Orlean on an unforgettable tour of America's strange flower-selling subculture, along with the Seminole Indians who help him and the forces of justice who fight him. In the end, Orlean -- and the reader -- will have more respect for underdog determination and a powerful new definition of passion." -- P.[4] of cover.… (more)

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HighBridge Audio

An edition of this book was published by HighBridge Audio.

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An edition of this book was published by HighBridge.

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