Tuesday 7 June 2016

At the Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier

“They were fighting over apples again. He wanted to grow more eaters to eat; she wanted spitters, to drink.”

The opening dialogue is between James and Sadie Goodenough, living in Black Swamp, Ohio in 1838. They are attempting to raise a family - which means have a lot of babies, children do not have a great chance of surviving - and plant apple trees, for eating and cider.

This is a rich, beautifully written book. Tracy Chevalier is famous for writing Girl with a Pearl Earring, which in my opinion makes it that much more difficult to write anything else. She notes wryly that the research for this book was eating a lot of apples. I suspect she did a little more.

She describes the “honey, nut crunch, with a pineapple finish” of the Golden Pippins, the grafting process, and has an appreciation of all things botanical. But what is truly beautiful about this read is the authenticity of the characters. What they say and do is fitting for them, their world and the time they lived in. The children grow and we follow their paths and lives, and flash back to the difficult swamp times.

Which cover do you like best? I can't decide, but I think I'm teetering towards the more sinister grey one, which is what my book looks like,

A powerful 4 star story, well told.

ISBN: 9780525953005

You may also enjoy Lila by Marilynne Robinson or Some Luck by Jane Smiley or even Blue Shoe by Anne Lamott.

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