At the Edge of the Orchard – Tracy Chevalier


Tracy Chevalier’s minutely-researched historical novels are a pleasure to read. The only other one I’ve read is Beautiful Creatures, which I  loved. As a history-lover I particularly enjoy an author whose account of historical fact in a fictional context can be trusted. The story starts with a pioneering family, James and Sadie Goodenough and their children, landing up in the swamps of Ohio in 1838. There they try to grow the requisite 50 trees to secure their land claim. But a swamp is not an ideal place for an apple orchard; an unsuitability extends to their marriage and dysfunctional family unit. The narrative then jumps to 1853 as their son Robert travels through California, and this raises questions around the circumstances of his departure. Robert meets the genuine John Chapman (AKA Johnny Appleseed) through his occupation of collecting seeds for wealthy English buyers. Richly described, full of fascinating botanic detail and evocatively written.

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SKU: 9780008135294 Categories: , ,


From the bestselling author of GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING comes a powerful new novel of family struggle, personal determination and the might of nature. What happens when you can’t run any further from your past? Ohio, 1838. James and Sadie Goodenough have settled in the Black Swamp, planting apple trees to claim the land as their own. Life is harsh in the swamp, and as fever picks off their children, husband and wife take solace in separate comforts. James patiently grows his sweet-tasting ‘eaters’ while Sadie gets drunk on applejack made fresh from ‘spitters’. Their fighting takes its toll on all of the Goodenoughs – a battle that will resonate over the years and across America. Fifteen years later their youngest son, Robert, is drifting through Goldrush California. Haunted by the broken family he fled years earlier, memories stick to him where mud once did. When he finds steady work for a plant collector, peace seems finally to be within reach. But the past is never really past, and one day Robert is forced to confront the brutal reason he left behind everything he loved. In this rich, powerful story, Tracy Chevalier is at her imaginative best, bringing to life the urge to wrestle with our roots, however deep and tangled they may be.


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