The Fair Botanists de Sara Sheridan

de Sara Sheridan - Género: English
libro gratis The Fair Botanists


Sara Sheridan Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd, Year: 2021 ISBN: 9781529336238,9781529336207,9781529336214

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I came across this in my local library. I was intrigued that the subject matter, although historical fiction, was set in 1822 and encompassed botany, mystery, women [as central characters] and real characters from history, especially those local to the Edinburgh area.

The story centres around a young newly widowed, Elizabeth Rocheid, and Isobel "Belle" Brodie, the half-sister of Joseph Brodie, a gentlemen of reasonable wealth and stature. These two women have interest in botany and it is this that brings them together. What develops from here is a tale of identity (plants and people), status, money, plans and love, death, theft and passions, alongside a visit to Edinburgh from the king, George IV.

There are many other characters, both real and fictional, who play parts in this story centering around the Royal Botanical Gardens Edinburgh (RBGE) and the environs of Georgian Edinburgh. The detail Sara Sheridan the author provides of this period through her description of people, places and life in a capital city of wealth and poverty is superb. This lends itself to making the story of Belle and Elizabeth believable, fun, enjoyable and a little risque (in its 18th century setting).

The author provides a very interesting historical note at the end that allows the reader to see that not only are some characters real but also houses, sites, and events large & small are too. Moreover, the descriptions of weather, the clothes of rich, manual worker and the poor, their household items, perfumery and ingredients make this realistic as does the spattering of Georgian Scots dialect.

Overall, a engrossing and rewarding read of an Edinburgh that was visited by George IV in the Summer of 1822.fiction35 s 8stitches 9lives2,856 1,660

The Fair Botanists is a captivating and intoxicating historical epic set in 1822 Edinburgh. The story surrounds the pomp and intrigue in Scotland’s Enlightenment City centred around the Royal Botanic Garden in the run-up to the visit of King George IV. In the spring and summer of 1822, the citizens of Edinburgh – and some amazed visitors – were assailed by an extraordinary spectacle, passing through the north of the city; the sight of parades of full-grown trees, mounted in barrels on slow-moving horse-drawn carts, being moved with extraordinary care from one location – the old Botanical Garden in Leith Walk – to another, the garden’s new home on the slopes below Inverleith House. It’s around this extraordinary moment in Edinburgh history – and the historic visit of George IV to the city later that summer, which led to what became known as the “Daft Days” of runaway royalist enthusiasm. Georgian Edinburgh’s botanical circles are gripped by the high excitement of the imminent blooming of the exotic and incredibly rare Agave Americana plant – an event which only occurs once in several decades – in the Botanic Garden Glasshouse. Observing this unfolding spectacle is newly widowed Elizabeth Rocheid who arrives in the city to live with her late husband’s aunt and start to build a new solitary life. She meets the enigmatic Belle Brodie, a vivacious young woman with a passion for the lucrative, dark art of perfume creation.

The two women bond over their shared interest in botany, although Belle is determined to keep both her real identity and the reason for her interest in the garden secret from her new friend. Yet as Elizabeth and Belle are about to discover, secrets don’t last long in this Enlightenment city, and when they are revealed, they can carry the greatest of consequences. Around this, a rich cast of characters assemble, each with their own personal motive for wanting to be close to this once-in-a-lifetime flower. And when the flower is stolen, secrets will be revealed in pursuit of the truth. What is the secret behind Belle’s fascination with the flowering Agave? This is a riveting, alluring and spellbinding historical novel packed with entertaining scandal and intrigue. With a gorgeous eye for detail, vividly realised characters and a masterfully crafted plot set within the grounds of the Botanic Garden, she seamlessly weaves fiction with history to enchanting and fascinating results. It's lush and evocative with rich descriptions and an even richer atmosphere that creates a stunning time capsule into 1822 Edinburgh. A seductive and sensual romp that intrigues with every page and reflects the hearty and exciting decade that drew the Enlightenment to a close with all its rambunctious pleasures and intellectual vigour. A truly dazzling, unique read peopled with wonderfully painted female characters that leaves you lost in a hazy dream world. Highly recommended.16 s Emma2,608 1,002

This was an almost perfect read! It was so refreshing to read a book set in Edinburgh for a start. The characters were a wonderful mixture, not just the MCs but the secondary characters as well. It was fascinating to be witness to the progress of botanical science and the mechanics of setting up a gardens and possible competition between Kew and Edinburgh. This book was just what I needed. Many thanks to Netgalley for an arc of this book.british-hf historical-fiction netgalley ...more17 s Thekla 11

This review contains spoilers.

The Fair Botanists is not a good book, despite what other may say. I was first drawn towards it by its beautiful floral cover, adorned so prettily with various plants that I missed what was, in hindsight, a glaring red flag splashed across it. This book feels the need to advertise to you, in direct, clear words, as a core component of its cover, just how good it is (and yes, I am aware that other books have on the cover, but none that I’ve encountered have put them so blatantly front and centre as this one). It tells you how to feel about it instead of letting you determine this yourself, and this pattern of telling instead of showing only continues when you open the cover.

Let’s start there, shall we?

The Fair Botanists is a book desperate to immerse you in every single florid detail of its story. It longs for you to know, to understand, every single idea that ever crossed the author’s mind with regards to the plot (such as there is one), the setting, the character’s backstories, thought, and actions, and it is so anxious to ensure that not a single detail is missed that it tells you everything. Everything. Conversations are broken up by irrelevant, multi-paragraph sections detailing a character’s past that have little to no bearing on the conversation at hand, and are dropped into the story with all the grace of a falling anvil. This treatment is not just applied liberally to the main characters, Elizabeth and Belle, and does not just happen during conversation – Sheridan is so keen to show you just how much planning and nuance has gone into every single character, major and minor, that even characters that show up for a single scene, who have absolutely no bearing or weight on the story, are given hefty introductions that serve only to fill space and add more words to the wordcount. A prime example is the following section, from the end of page 227 in the hardback copy of the book:

It is Michael O’Halloran who notices the theft. A grave Irishman from Donegal, he considers himself lucky to be employed by the Garden rather than on a building site, but his uncle is head gardener at a big house near Stranraer and managed to secure him the position.

This information is utterly useless. O’Halloran is never encountered again beyond a single fleeting mention (if that even is him – the vast majority of characters in this book are so bland that they’re practically interchangeable), and we needed exactly none of this information in order to understand the scene. All it does is pad out an already exceptionally fluffy story – there were multiple points in reading it where I felt my eyes glaze over as yet another useless, trite piece of backstory was delivered in flat and uninspired prose. Another prime example is the following (I didn’t record the page number, but from the order of my photos it’s between page 227 and page 244, just to show you how frequently this occurs):

In Great King Street Mr Graham’s man enters the bedroom and wakes the master. The Graham’s keep separate rooms, with the lady housed in larger accommodation to the rear where a mahogany four-poster is upholstered in sky-blue, fringed damask. Mr Graham sleeps in his dressing room on a single bed with a window to the street. He visits Mrs Graham once a month for they have been married for many years and he does not to impose. This arrangement is of his choosing and is entirely acceptable to him.

Un the previous example, this one does have the tiniest piece of relevance when it turns out that Nellie, Belle’s maid, has struck up an affair with Mr Graham, but having this information to hand destroys any chance that the revelation may have had on surprising the reader. Everything in this story is laid out in such painfully over-described lists that there is absolutely nothing to maintain suspense – by attempting to show us the point of view and thoughts of every single character there is nothing left for us as readers to puzzle through or chew on. Nothing is left unclear or intriguing – everything is narrated to us as though we are schoolchildren being told that A is for Apple. ‘Elizabeth feels sad.’ Goodness, thank you for that insight, Ms Sheridan. I never could have figured that out myself from everything else in the scene. Perhaps if the characters had more personality between them than a felt puppet there wouldn’t be the need to constantly tell the reader what should be clear from character’s actions, but that wasn’t the case in this book. Everything is told to you, everything is narrated, and every single character gets their turn on the point of view. Not to mention that these POV swaps often happen multiple times within the same scene, pinging back and forth between characters as though the POV is a bar of soap in a shared bath that everyone is trying to take hold of, further muddying the metaphorical waters.

Now, I will give the author one piece of credit: it is clear that this book has been well-researched (save for one particular instance, but I’ll go into that later). Historical characters are name-dropped or flat-out appear as players in the story; specific dates and addresses are given; the minutiae of 1820’s Edinburgh are clearly understood. There is a degree of research here that, in the hands of a better author, may well have served to craft a beautiful, rich, immersive story, where you feel as though you could reach out and touch the stones and flowers of Edinburgh.

Unfortunately, Sheridan is not that author. Instead, she appears to be so delighted with her own research and knowledge that she crams as much of it into every single page as she possibly can, giving you specifics with all the subtlety of a jet engine. The reader is hit with facts a shovel to the face – one instance that especially sticks in the mind is the name dropping of a specific china brand on page 46:

In darkness, Belle sips her tea from a Rathbone china cup with dusky roses around the rim.

No context is given for what Rathbone china is. Is it a good brand? A bad one? Is it cheap or expensive? Perhaps if we knew more it would tell us something about the character, but it doesn’t – we are instead left with this vague feeling of authorial smugness, as though Sheridan is showing off just how much she knows and we don’t. Sheridan’s habit of over-describing, which comes through clearly in this line, is omnipresent throughout the book as well. Every gown is described, every glass is examined, every millimeter of Edinburgh is pinned down for us to ensure that our mental image of it is exactly what the author has in mind. Unfortunately, much the frequent backstory drops, all this serves to do is pad the book out with useless and irrelevant information. I think there was one instance in the book where the details of someone’s gown did in fact have a small degree of relevance, but I was already drowning in so many descriptions of peach satins and pale muslins that my eyes skimmed over it out of habit.

And talking of dress… while Ms Sheridan’s understanding of gowns and her acknowledgements of bonnets is commendable, she fell utterly, tragically flat in one place that my fashion-history-loving heart simply could not accept:

… Downstairs, she waits for Clementina, as the corseting on the old woman’s frocks takes a good twenty minutes to secure.

This... this line has multiple issues. For starters, corsets were not a thing in 1820. This is a fact. Stays were a thing, and a very common one at that, but even if we look past this (after all, in some historical texts ‘stays’ and ‘corset’ are used interchangeably), allow me to say that twenty minutes is a goddamn ridiculous length of time to do up a corset, stays or anything similar. My source: I wear a corset, and it takes me maybe five minutes at most to lace it. I’ve had my corset for a week. Clementine would have been living in stays for her entire life. Now, the majority of stays in 1820 were back-laced, which does make them slightly harder to do up, but helpful maids (which Clementina has) would speed that process up tremendously. Not to mention that earlier in the book it was mentioned that Clementina dressed somewhat out of fashion – if she was dressing significantly earlier than 1820 then her stays may very well have been front-laced, which would make them even easier to do up. There is absolutely no conceivable way that it would take 20 minutes for Clementina to don her stays, and even if we interpret this passage to mean ‘dressing her fully’ as opposed to just ‘putting on her stays,’ 20 minutes is still an absurd length of time to don what was a day-to-day outfit, even if we grant it the panniers that a late 1700s gown would have had. I’m aware that this is a ridiculous bone to pick, but it’s my bone, and I’m going to chew on it until I reach the marrow.

But moving on from bones and corset boning (or lack thereof), let's move onto another area where this book struggled: the tense. This book is written in the present tense, which is in itself not an issue. Present tense, just the past tense, is a perfectly fine tense to write a book in. Admittedly, it does put me slightly in mind of fanfiction, as lots of fanfic is written in present tense, but as a fic writer and reader I can hardly judge that, and I won’t. Present tense is great.
What is less great, though, is when certain things are written in present tense that should really, really be written in past tense. I’m not aware of how much experience Ms Sheridan has with writing in the present tense, but over time one learns that certain recountings of past events need to be written in past tense to maintain the flow of the story. Allow me to demonstrate with a passage from page 244:

‘…“Can I offer you some pie? I have an appetite.”
“Ta. But naw.” Mhairi has broken her fast with a bowl of porridge, a dollop of cream and two glasses of milk.’

Putting aside the fact that we didn’t need to know what Mhairi had for breakfast (or the manner in which her breakfast is served – this description goes on for a while), she is also currently not breaking her fast. That happened in the past, and thus should be past tense – a simple change from ‘has’ to ‘had’ would go a long way in making this passage feel less awkward to read. Maybe this is just my own preference, or maybe it’s an editing error, but this and other tense-awkward passages happen multiple times throughout the story.

‘But!’ you may be crying, ‘this only deals with the style that the book is written in! Everyone has different tastes! What of the story itself? The characters? Are they not deserving of the adoring that others have left?’

You have an excellent question, and allow me to answer it for you: No. No, they are not, not in any capacity. Even beyond the style struggles, the prose problems, and the tense troubles, the story itself is utterly, entirely unforgettable, with as much hold on the reader as a gentle breeze. Less, even. At least a breeze will still stir your hair.

I felt absolutely nothing the entire time that I was reading this book. The constant jumping of POV and being told everything about every character instead of seeing it in their actions rendered each and every one of them as flat as a board. I didn’t care about Belle’s perfume-making endeavors. I didn’t care about Duncan and Mhairi’s budding (and poorly established) romance. I didn’t care about Elizabeth’s…. I didn’t care about Elizabeth, let alone whatever the hell it was that she was doing. I’ve read the whole book, and I still don’t know what her purpose was. She just floated from place to place, drawing and talking but never really doing anything. I cared somewhat for Mr McNab (in my mind, the true main character), who has to actually deal with the root cause of what’s going on, but even then I wasn’t particularly bothered, even despite such stunning character insights as:

“I must have eaten a bad egg,’ McNab replies. But he has not eaten any egg, good or bad.

Wow. With writing that, you can really put yourself in the character’s shoes.

In addition to this dire lack of characterization, the plot (such as there is one), is spread far too thinly across the characters, and there wasn’t very much of it to begin with. Everything that happened could probably be conveyed in a much neater, stronger, more effective form in a novel 1/3 the size of this one. So much of this book is just padding, giving us unnecessary information and an abundance of useless detail, as though the author was just trying to meet a wordcount. Which, given that the book is a commission, she may well have been. While the author’s note makes it clear that the story was designed to be ‘light-hearted… but catch[ing] the spirit of the city at this fascinating time in history’, the end result of this overabundance of lightness is a plot so thin and pale that it vanishes the moment you blink. Nothing holds your interest. Nothing keeps you turning the pages (except perhaps for a morbid curiosity of if it’s possible for the book to get even blander). Now, I won’t say that nothing happens, because events do certainly take place, but the plot crawls along at a snail’s pace, without even giving you the courtesy of wondering what sort of snail it is based on its shell. You already know. The book told you. In painstaking detail.

In short, if you found this review to be over-long and dragged-out, then you will find The Fair Botanists to be just as bad. Despite the ceaseless descriptions of everything and everyone and the abundant amount of research that’s gone into it, The Fair Botanists is ultimately a dull, uninteresting read with neither substance, charm, nor intrigue. Reading this book feels trying to eat tissue paper – bland, pointless, and ultimately forgettable.

Well. Perhaps eating tissue paper would be a touch more interesting.

The Fair Botanists by Sara Sheridan – 1/5 stars.16 s1 comment Rachel (not currently receiving notifications) Hall1,047 85

The Fair Botanists is Sara Sheridan’s combined tribute to the legacy of women’s history and Edinburgh and takes readers back to the tail end of the Enlightenment in the city. Taking inspiration from King George IV’s much anticipated visit to Edinburgh in the summer of 1822 and merging fiction with real life characters (including head gardener of the Royal Botanic Gardens, William McNab and writer, Sir Walter Scott), the novel primarily revolves about the imminent flowering of the exotic Agave americana plant and the numerous interested parties.

The novel opens with newly widowed Elizabeth Rocheid arriving in Edinburgh to live with her late husband’s aunt Clementina at Inverleith House. Left impoverished following a miserable marriage Elizabeth is heartened to find that the relocated Royal Botanic Gardens border her new home. Having sketched for the head gardener at Kew when she was in London, kindly Elizabeth is pleased to make the acquaintance of head gardener, William McNab, who seems keen for her to resume her botanical art, and find a friend in eccentric Clementina. It soon becomes clear that much of the mounting interest in the resituated gardens stems from the fervour around the imminent blooming of the prize Agave americana plant and not all of that concern is entirely altruistic. One of the interested parties is courtesan Belle Brodie, an independent and unashamedly spirited woman out to make her own fortune and putting her interest in botany to use making potions for a London apothecary. When Elizabeth crosses paths with Belle in the weeks leading up to the plants flowering they strike up an unly friendship whilst the city itself is gripped by the frenzy surrounding the King’s visit being organised by envoy Johann von Streitz. As head gardener William McNab, Regis Keeper Robert Graham, seed merchant Mrs Dickson, eminent botanist Lady Liston and Belle Brodie all await the flowering with bated breath it makes for a brilliantly complicated affair of hidden motives, blackmail and secret shenanigans.

The story gets off to a fairly slow start I suspect due to the extensive cast and their context requiring introduction, and whilst I was fascinated by all the jockeying for seeds and build-up to flowering, I felt the novel was bogged down with extraneous details. At times it felt the author was introducing another strong independent woman at the expense of moving the actual story forward or fleshing out the central characters and this frustrated me. I found the friendship between Elizabeth and Belle a little forced possibly because it happens rather hastily and Elizabeth is far more muted and indistinct than go-getting Belle. Although I enjoyed the book and appreciated the atmosphere of anticipation it never completely hooked me, despite my interest in the central protagonists of Elizabeth and Belle, because I only ever felt superficially involved with their dilemmas. If I had been fully invested in the book then the overly simplistic ending, which ties up every loose end rather too neatly, would certainly have aggrieved me more. However I cannot fault the atmosphere, originality of the setting or Sara Sheridan’s bustling portrait of Edinburgh as a city of possibility.16 s Rita da NovaAuthor 3 books3,602 Read

“Há algum tempo que não lia um romance histórico passado tão atrás no tempo e, embora não me tenha custado assim tanto a entrar na história, a meio da leitura senti alguma dificuldade com o ritmo mais lento que a autora escolheu para desenvolver o enredo. A escrita é bastante atual, tem apenas um ou outro apontamento de inglês mais arcaico — não tanto para aproximar o livro da época, mas mais para nos ajudar a situar a história. Apesar disso, posso considerar que foi uma leitura positiva e que gostei de conhecer estas personagens. Tenho a certeza de que não mudou a minha vida, mas foi um tempo bem passado e levou-me a explorar um género que não tenho por hábito ler.”

A review completa está aqui: https://ritadanova.blogs.sapo.pt/the-....14 s Thebooktrail1,758 331

Visit the locations in the novel The Fair Botanists

Travel to the Botanic Gardens of Edinburgh

This is a great book. An immersive read and a heartfelt, human story of science and botany. That’s no small feat for an author to achieve but it’s a wonderful world that Sara has created here. A mix of fact and fiction too which always makes my heart sing. Real characters walk across the pages with fictional ones or those created from the two. There’s a skill in bringing this all together and this book has it.

What a fascinating world that of botany is! This is the early days of the Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh and various people are interested in the flowers and plants for various reasons. True history lingers in the background as the King is paying a visit to the city so it really come to life. The garden brings together a cast of characters whose life will all intersect in dramatic fashion. The trees and plants are to be oved from Leith to the new place. There’s a plant, an Agave Americana that is set to flower and may people are interested in the seeds. This plant flowers but once in a lifetime. I never thought I would get so excited about a flower, but this is a serious and fascinating time and it completely enchanted me!

The two female leads in the novel, Belle and Elizabeth – I wish I knew both in real life! Belle Brodie, is a courtesan. She just does her own thing and seeks pleasure where she can despite what society might dictate. Elizabeth has just suffered a bereavement and so is seeking new adventures. /having worked at Kew Gardens, she is keen to work in the new Edinburgh gardens.

Sara has taken women from history, some real and others reimagined, and given them a voice. Seeing fictional characters walking side by side with real historical figures was magical and it created a wonderful picture of Edinburgh society at that time.

In BookTrail terms, the wonderful thing is that you can pretty much go to Edinburgh today and you barely have to squint to see the scenes and buildings that Sara recreates here. The cobbles, the narrow alleys, the gothic overtones and the Botanic gardens are very much there. The present day might have rubbed off the edges and introduced more modern landmarks but this is an Edinburgh stuck in time. I was fascinated to be back in the city when Princes Street Gardens were being drained from the loch. The story behind Constitution Walk in Leith was an eye opener!

A wonderful story and an ode to Edinburgh, the Botanic gardens and all those who worked in this world, especially the women.books-set-in-edinburgh books-set-in-parks-and-gardens books-set-in-scotland ...more9 s Maria Grazia195 57

Reading The Fair Botanists has been my latest fascinating journey back in time. I’m grateful I had the chance to fling away to Edinburgh back then, in 1822, at a time of cultural brilliancy and great change.

As I am fond of Scotland, the 19th century, historical fiction and - why not? - flowers and perfumes, how could I not enjoy Sara Sheridan’s latest novel?

I love when you smell, touch and clearly see in your inward eye – quoting one of my favourite Romantic poets, Wordsworth - what the words narrate and describe. Well, it practically means I love when a story is very well written. I appreciate even more when I can recognize research, accuracy and respect behind the good story-telling. You find all that in The Fair Botanists.

The cast of compelling characters is led by two charming heroines, Elizabeth and Belle, and include illustrious historical figures you’ll be delighted to meet in Sheridan’s lively portrayals. Just one name for them all, Sir Walter Scott.

But you’ll also be intrigued by less famous real-life characters William McNab and Robert Graham, whose well-documented stories have been interwoven with the fictional lives of many of the characters, obtaining an interesting, multi-layered, lively picture.

I was hooked by the mystery and the secrets, engaged by the historical references and the social issues hinted at, charmed by the flowers and the perfumes, entertained by the lively style, titillated by the romantic liaisons.

I’m sure you’ll love Elizabeth and Belle and their adventures. I hope they’ll stay with you, in Sara Sheridan’s words, “as an echo of our foremothers and the lives they might have lived, for history is endlessly complicated and full of secrets, and in my view is as much herstory as his one”.

( Read the rest of my post on my blog https://flyhigh-by-learnonline.blogsp... )19th-century botany edinburgh ...more8 s Vikki PatisAuthor 9 books199

Perfectly paced, romantic and full of intrigue, The Fair Botanists is a truly wonderful story where women take centre stage. Set against the lush backdrop of the Royal Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh, Sheridan has created a vibrant, vivid world to disappear into.

The writing is exquisite, and reminded me of Michel Faber's The Crimson Petal and the White. The theme of the rare (at the time) plant which flowers only once, and what ultimately happens to it, is cleverly done, showing Belle to be a woman who is truly in control of her own life. Women in 19th century Scotland had more freedom than in other parts of the UK, and Sheridan shows how each of the female characters take control of their lives, but it is not without difficulty or danger. Each character is richly drawn and full of life, and though Belle was undoubtedly my favourite, Mhairi also stands out as a strong, colourful woman. I would love to read more of her and her journey. 8 s Hayley (Shelflyfe)325 6

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