Skip to main content

Featured Post

Book Review: On Philosophising, Philosophers, Philosophy and New Vistas in Applied Philosophy, by Dr. Sharmila Jayant Virkar

A little bit of context before you begin reading this book review. I have recently enrolled for an MA in Philosophy at the University of Mumbai. Philosophy is something I have been getting interested in, over the past few years, as those of you who have been reading my blogs and Instagram posts would know. During the pandemic, I thought long and hard about what I wanted to do next, and this is what I eventually came up with. It has been a challenge, getting back into academics as a student at this age, especially in a subject I have no academic background in. However, it has also been very exciting, especially thanks to my wonderful classmates (who, surprisingly, are of all age-groups, including some quite near my own) and my teachers, who have been very supportive and understanding. How well I will do is something that remains to be seen, but so far, I am enjoying this new journey and look forward to where it leads. Now that you know the background , you probably get an idea of how

Book Review: The Rose Grower by Michelle De Kretser


The 14th of July, 1789 - A date which would become famous as Bastille Day, a symbol of the uprising of the common man against the tyranny of the monarchs. The date would soon be etched in the pages of history, but in a small corner of France, the date is memorable too... for another reason. On that eventful day, “labourers working in the fields around Montsignac, a village in Gascony, saw a man fall out of the sky.” So begins the novel, “The Rose Grower” by Michelle De Kretser.



Stephen Fletcher, an American Balloonist, is the man who ‘fell out of the sky’. He is taken to the nearest house, the residence of the Saint Pierres, and Stephen proceeds to fall in love with the first face he sets eyes on – Claire, the eldest daughter, even though she is married and has a son by the rich and snobbish Hubert De Montferrant.

The Rose Grower in the title is Sophie, the second child, the plain girl, who stands no chance against the charms of her older and so much more beautiful sister. She is the one who runs the family, keeps it together, manages to eke out a living in the worsening situation, and still manages to grow roses, always creating new varieties, and carries in her heart, the dream of creating the perfect crimson rose. For,
“In eighteenth century Europe, crimson roses do not exist. There are red-purple roses, of course, and rosy reds, and a sumptuous deep pink overclouded with plum and mulberry.”

Sophie, all of 22 years, is all set to live out her life as an old maid, till the accident brings irreversible changes in her life. Even as Stephen falls in love with, and begins an affair with Claire, Sophie falls in love with the adventurous stranger. Meanwhile, a young, idealistic doctor from the poorest section of the village, Joseph Morel, finds himself inexplicably attracted to the girl. Joseph is poor and idealistic, but he is also ambitious and has big dreams of righting the wrongs of the world. Drawn into a group of well off revolutionaries, themselves a mirror of the regime they plan to overthrow, he constantly struggles with himself, both, in the matter of love, as well his beliefs and ideals.

Michelle De Kretser takes us through events as they occur in the lives of these people, and those around them, against the backdrop of the French Revolution. The story spans a decade, the most tumultuous time in the history of France. Their lives mirror the tumult, and the happenings around them inextricably link lives and fortunes together.

Stories related to the Holocaust or the French Revolution usually tend to be a grim reminder of the worst face of mankind, and the underlying tragedy looms over the situation all the time. It is the same with this one too, though Michelle De Kretser manages to keep the Revolution at a distance, chronicling the events as they take place, far from the serene and simple village. It is only when the events occur closer that we sense the change in mood, and even then, she keeps the tragedy at bay, usually with her description of the roses and the manner in which Sophie grafts them together, to bring out the best in varieties together, in a single rose. A rose so perfectly red... the perfect crimson... which will flower through the year... the flower she hopes to create... which she will name the only thing there is to look forward to – ‘L’Avenir – The Future’.

Michelle De Kretser’s poetic words are what make this book such a wonderful read. And the same words are what make the book and its characters stay with you, long after you have finished reading! 

P.S. This book was sent to me for review by Random House India



Comments

  1. The plot sounds like a surefire winner, Anu. And your review wants me to read the book like, now.
    Ahem ... May I borrow this book from you?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Sudha!!! and the book is stored away for you!

      Delete

Post a Comment

Thanks so much for stopping by. Please leave a comment for me so that I will know you have been here....

Popular posts from this blog

The Havelis of Bikaner - A Photo Post

The lanes are narrow , twisting and turning amidst buildings old and new. Crumbling old structures with intricate workmanship stand side by side with art deco buildings, and more modern constructions, which follow no particular style. Autos, bicycles, motorcycles and vans rush past, blowing their horns as loudly as possible, while cows saunter past peacefully, completely unaffected by the noise. In the midst of all this chaos, children play by the side, and women go about their chores, as we explore these by-lanes of Bikaner, and its beautiful Havelis. Facade of one of the Rampuria Havelis

Gokarna Part II – The Five Lingams

We continued our Gokarna trip by visiting four other Shiva temples in the vicinity, all connected to the same story of Gokarna. The story of Gokarna mentions the Mahabaleshwara Lingam as the one brought from Kailas by Ravana, and kept at this place on the ground by Ganesha. (See my earlier post- Gokarna – Pilgrimage and Pleasure). However, the story does not end here. It is believed that, in his anger, Ravana flung aside the materials which covered the lingam- the casket, its lid, the string around the lingam, and the cloth covering it. All these items became lingams as soon as they touched the ground. These four lingams, along with the main Mahabaleshwara lingam are collectively called the ‘ Panchalingams’ . These are: Mahabaleshwara – the main lingam Sajjeshwar – the casket carrying the lingam. This temple is about 35 Kms from Karwar, and is a 2 hour drive from Gokarna. Dhareshwar – the string covering the lingam. This temple is on NH17, about 45 Kms south of Gokarna. Gunavantesh

The Elephanta Caves

The Elephanta Caves , located on Elephanta Island, or Gharapuri, about 11 Km off the coast of the Gateway of India, Mumbai, are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A visit to these caves, excavated probably in the 6 th century CE, is awe-inspiring, and also thought-provoking. Over the years, I have visited the caves a number of times, and also attended a number of talks by experts in the fields of art, history and archaeology on the caves. Together, they help me understand these caves, their art, and the people they were created for, just a little bit better. Every new visit, every new talk, every new article I read about the caves, fleshes out the image of what the island and the caves would have been like, at their peak. I last wrote about the caves on this blog, in 2011, almost exactly 11 years ago. Since then, my understanding of the caves has, I would like to think, marginally improved. Hence this attempt to write a new and updated post, trying to bring to life, the caves of Elephan