July 14, 1789, Montsignac, Gascony. The Saint-Pierre family is caring for American artist Stephen Fletcher after he''s fallen from his balloon and landed in a haystack. Jean-Baptiste de Saint-Pierre is a magistrate with three daughters. Claire, the eldest, is beautiful and married (in a way that seems to require little personal involvement) to the odious and malodorous aristo Hubert. Sophie is plain, single, intelligent, good, competent, and obsessed with growing roses. And Mathilde is 8 and entertainingly precocious: when Stephen remarks on how he adores children because "they are so ... innocent and yet so perceptive in their apprehension of the world," Matty dismisses him instantly. "''Oh no--another Rousseauist,'' said the child with unconcealed disappointment. ''I''m not like that at all.''" And then there''s Brutus, a dog that "only bites people whose smell he doesn''t like."
But the Saint-Pierres'' lives, like those of everyone else in the locality, are about to fracture as the Revolution gathers momentum and the shock waves from Paris push out into the provinces. The novel''s epigraph--"Small change, small change," Napoleon Bonaparte''s reaction to a battlefield full of casualties--signals it to be an exploration of small people caught up in big events. And, indeed, Michelle de Kretser takes us from the optimistic start of the Revolution as it manifests in Montsignac, through factionalization, fanaticism and Terror, denunciations and betrayals, through love and loyalty to a quiet, damaged aftermath, with a vivid cast of surprising heroes, unexpected villains, and not-quite-innocent bystanders. The Rose Grower is a hypnotically engrossing work, illuminating the biggest of issues with the lightest, most fragrant of touches. --Lisa Gee
Writing with poignancy and mesmerizing detail, Michelle de Kretser has penned a haunting tale set against the madness of the French Revolution -- a wistful, elegantly rendered novel of unrequited love and personal triumph in a world gone tragically awry.
The 1789 storming of the Bastille has brought France to the brink of revolution. Yet in the serene heart of the French province of Gascony, little has changed in a hundred years -- and the events in Paris seem but a distant thunder.
Indeed, the dramatic crash landing of American artist and amateur balloonist Stephen Fletcher sparks far more excitement. Stephen lands in the pastoral world of a magistrate and his three daughters -- ethereal Claire, pert and precocious Mathilde, and plain, sensible Sophie, who lovingly tends her rose garden as she simmers with unfulfilled longings.
As the revolution brings murder, terror, and fear into the remote Gascon countryside, Stephen finds himself enchanted by the angelic Claire. Yet he is also strangely drawn to Sophie, whose courage and compassion sustain them all, from her family to the quixotic, tormented physician who silently adores her. And even as Sophie keeps a tender secret of her own, she works toward realizing yet another dream: the miracle of an original repeat-flowering crimson rose -- a hopeful symbol of an unblighted future.
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