My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is the story of Henry Whitakker and his daughter Alma.
Henry is a British autodidact botanist who tries to surpass his competitors which work at the Kew Royal Botanic Gardens.
In order to find new horizons, he decides to move to America where he becomes a healthy and successful botanist in Philadelphia due to the selling of the Peruvian roots which were used to treat malaria at that time. He builds a magnificent house in a huge propriety where he starts to build his own gardens with plenty of glass-houses.
Alma is his only daughter who survived at the countless miscarriages of her mother Beatrix. By moving to America, the married couple decided to bring their own Dutch governess.
By telling the tale of the life of a woman botanist in the 18th century, the author keeps the reader’s interest even if in the middle of the book the narratives becomes a little bit boring.
Alma becomes fascinated by the mosses and she writes two books on this subject. She falls in love by a younger man, Ambrose Pike, who paints orchids and he will make a real turmoil in Alma’s life.
In order to overcome a disastrous marriage, he moves to Tahiti where he will die.
After her loss, Alma decides to donate her inheritance to her adopted sister and decides to travel to Tahiti in order to understand the final and tragical life of her husband.
By returning to Holland, he finds out the Darwin’s evolutionist theory with many resemblances with her own observations and she shares her old age with sharing her knowledge with another nature’s scientist.
A beautiful and engaging story even if sometimes the narratives extends beyond count. Sometimes we have the impression that the author will engage in a romantic story but the author manages to move back to the historical fiction.
An interesting article just came up: The Gardens of Their Dreams by Robin Lane Fox.