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Natives and Exotics by Jane Alison
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Natives and Exotics

by Jane Alison

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411424,739 (3.33)7
"Transplanted halfway around the globe in 1970, nine-year-old Alice, the unrooted child of diplomats, is ravished by the beauty of Ecuador, a country her parents are helping to despoil. Forty years earlier, her grandmother Violet, a newlywed making a home in the wilds of Australia, confronts troubling traces of her country's past. In early nineteenth-century Scotland, Violet's great-great-grandfather George flees the violence of the Clearances for the Portuguese Azores, unaware that he will have a hand in destroying the unearthly paradise he finds there and be forced to flee again." "Natives and Exotics follows these three characters, linked by blood and legacy, as they wander a world scarred by colonialism and disconcerting revelations about nature, from the unearthing of the first dinosaur bones to the discovery that the continents drift."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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From September 2005 School Library Journal:
Man’s attempts to subdue nature are at the heart of this novel about one multi-generational family’s experiences with “civilizing” the world. The novel opens with 9-year-old Alice traveling to Ecuador with her mother and stepfather, one of a slew of families who congregate there in the 1970s to help American oil companies reap the benefits of that country’s oil exports. Largely undeveloped until that time, Ecuador is thrown into political and social upheaval as the United States holds out the carrot of progress through industrialization.
The story then flashes back to 1929 Australia, where Alice’s grandmother Violet is attempting to make a life for herself and her family in the rough and uncultivated Adelaide. Alison does a marvelous job with historically accurate details of running a home, from the Coolgardie Safe that keeps their milk and butter cool to the copper kettle and wringer used on laundry day and the hoarding of precious water. Violet, pregnant with the son who will be Alice’s uncle, ponders the meaning of “home” and the question of whether humans can ever consider themselves native to a certain area.
In the third and final flashback, readers are introduced to George Clarence, Violet’s great-great-grandfather, who in 1822 sails from Scotland to the Portuguese Azores to begin a life in the citrus business. A peaceful man, he is troubled by the prevailing European mentality of that period that calls for clearing off “natives” and anything else that stands in the way of progress. However, as he eagerly transplants trees and flowers that are shipped from various parts of the world to the Azores, he finds himself an unwitting participant in the game of reshaping the world to western standards.
Alison covers a lot of ground in her 250 page novel, and her ambitious undertaking makes the flow rather disjointed at times. However, the theme of how much man can truly control the natural world is a thought-provoking one, and the language is spare and beautiful. Her third novel is not for reluctant readers, but those curious about the history of European exploration and colonization will enjoy Alison’s perspective.
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  KimJD | Apr 8, 2013 |
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