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18 July 2016

At the Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier - Book Review

I'd been missing reading Tracy Chevalier when I found her new book in one of my favourite bookstores in Barcelona, Come in, although I only bought it a few weeks later at Casa del Libro. I like to indulge in books when I am reading them, whether carrying them with me at a coffee shop or taking pictures for my blog or else.
At the Edge of the Orchard is a singular novel among Chevalier's ones. It isn't about art, a recurrent theme in her books, and it has a very simple plot with long descriptions. In fact, it might not be for everyone due to this reason. It's about nature and specifically apples and their trade during 19th century Ohio.

1838. In the Black Swamp, the Goodenoughs, a poor family made by James and Sadie and their children, buy apple seeds and cultivate apple trees for a living. James and Sadie carry out a daily conflict over apples as one likes eaters and the other spitters, to make cider. Their repetitive life goes on like this, until Robert leaves home and goes wandering in California during the Golden Rush of the 1850s. There, he starts collecting grove sequoia and redwood seeds for a naturalist, leaving behind a past that is never really past.

The book is rich with descriptions - and by long I mean the first two three pages of each chapter. Personally I enjoyed that since Chevalier's ones are amazing. It was from these that I realised how much her style has evolved as a writer. This also emerges through the use of different lexicons, including the objective one by the author and the one from Sadie's perspective, which follows her flow of thoughts in her own rough, basic language.

Again, like in the other books by Chevalier I read, there is something too rushed in the showdown that determines the plot, although in this case it was the central plot twist and not the conclusion, leaving space for catching up with the story. Overall, I enjoyed the book for its style rather than its simple plot.

I recommend reading another book by Chevalier before this one in order to really appreciate it. But if you have a classic taste for literature, then I'm sure you'll enjoy it.

Goodreads: 4/5 stars - because I think Chevalier could go even beyond this.

My edition: Tracy Chevalier, 2016. At the Edge of the Orchard. London: The Borough Press. This is the British edition, which is, in my opinion, more accurate due to the poor lifestyle of the Goodenoughs.

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