Book Review: The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin
September 12, 2012 12 Comments
Number of pages: 448
First published: 2012
I got this book: from Harper (an imprint of HarperCollins) for review (ARC)
Genre: historical fiction
The Orchardist: What it is about
It’s the late 19th Century, and William Talmadge has been working his orchard in Northwest USA for many years. He’s living alone, and one day, some girls come and steal some of his fruit. They look very pregnant and seem to have been sleeping rough. As he doesn’t chase them off, they come back and a reluctant bond develops between Talmadge and the girls.
When several men with guns come after the girls, a tragedy follows and Talmadge tries his best to save the girls, which then becomes his goal in life.
The Orchardist: What I thought
Although there are men with guns at some point, this book is really quite quiet. Things happen, but generally not in a dramatic way other than that, and one or two other events.
Talmadge has a good reason to look after the girls: his own sister disappeared when he was a teenager. So he tries to look after the girls as best as he can without acting like their father, which they clearly don’t want from him.
The story switches between the people in the orchard and Della, one of the girls, who moves on after a while. Sometimes the chapters are very short (half a page) and they start on a new page every time. That seemed a bit strange – in other books they would be treated as paragraphs and continue directly under the previous one. (I should probably mention the chapters did not have numbers, but started with the same small picture each time. In that sense they could actually be considered paragraphs.)
The book is beautifully written and there is an amazing sense of location: the orchard, the remoteness, the effect of the seasons. The book is about family bonds, living in a substitute family, guilt, and revenge. Since Della goes off to do male jobs, there is also an element of crossing the gender boundaries.
I got hooked on reading the book because of the images it brought up and the way it was written. The story itself wasn’t too gripping but that wasn’t needed to make this a wonderful book.
Have you read this book?
Did you enjoy it?