Saturday, 9 March 2013

The Orchardist

Finished March 8
The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin, read by Mark Bramhall

I loved this book. It is set in the early part of the twentieth century, in rural Washington state. A man named William Talmadge lives at the orchard that he, his mother and his sister came to when he was a child. His mother died and his sister disappeared, and he has made a lonely existence for himself. His only real contacts are a local healer named Caroline Middey, a few years older than him, and a group of native men who stop at the orchard on their horse trading trips, one of whom, Clee, Talmadge becomes especially close to.
One day, when he is selling his fruit in town, a couple of young girls, heavily pregnant and apparently vagrant, steal some of his apples. Later, the same girls show up at his orchard, and his compassion for them moves him to help them. When the man they are fleeing follows, a tragedy ensues, and leads to years of changed lives as Talmadge feels the need to protect all the victims.
This is a story told in a slow, languid fashion, gradually unfolding before the reader. It is rich in description and details and uses wonderful language to evoke the time and circumstances of all the characters. Because I was listening to the audiobook, I had to see out the physical book later to share some of these wonderful passages. The reader, Mark Bramhall, does an amazing job of storytelling using slow speaking, pauses, and other means to bring the story to vibrant life.

Here are some examples of the writing:

About his sister:
"The girl setting off, to be caught by something she did not anticipate. What else could have happened, really? The only thing worse, perhaps, than knowing for certain that she was abducted was not knowing. That was the sad truth.  And Talmadge lived in that uncertainty, he had made his home in it, and there was no possibility of him resting--truly resting--ever again."
"She just kept walking. Nobody came after her. She walked until she could not hear the men behind her anymore, and the forest mended in silence behind her. They would wonder about her, they would even search for her, and they would hate her for it. But she had no choice. She could feel the old familiar feeling, waiting under the canopy of trees. It had fit her like a glove, and she was certain in her soul she had been there before. She had had to escape her own fate."
"And that was the point of children, thought Caroline Middey: to bind us to the earth and to the present, to distract us from death. A distraction dressed as a blessing: but dressed so well, and so truly, that it became a blessing. Or maybe it was the other way around: a blessing first, before a distraction. Caroline Middey scrutinized the point; did not know if the distinction was important. (All distinctions are important.) But she did not think any more about it because at her back, suddenly, the child woke from her nap, and she rose at once to go to her."
and this:
"He was struck, as he was always stuck, by the horses' simultaneous ugliness and beauty. Different shapes, heights, colors: cream-colored, black, brown, yellow horses, horses with dappled rumps, with stockings; some white horses with pink snouts and blue eyes; tall horses, with muscular necks; others short, stunted, dwarfed-looking. All weighing around a quarter ton, some just over. He had seen these herds for years, and yet when they came through the trees he was always surprised by them. They were dirty, unkempt, stinking; overall unpredictable. Perhaps what made them so impressive was their undandledness. They had encountered no human up there in the mountains where they were captured. The men had gone up there, to the places where the horses lived, and dragged them--the horses--down to the plateaus and lowlands, and as a result the horses held the deepest grudge; they tore this way and that, tossing their heads, breathing rancid horse breath out of their rancid horse lungs. This is how he imagined it, as a boy lying awake at night, unable to sleep because of their presence in the field. He did not understand what they were. What do you mean, what are they? his mother had said. They are horses, Talmadge. But they were unknowable, both singly and as a herd. Even now it was difficult to look away from them."
I could go on and on, but hopefully you see what I mean by these. Definitely on my list of favourites for the year.

No comments:

Post a Comment