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The Cloud Garden: A True Story of Adventure, Survival, and Extreme Horticulture Hardcover – 3 Mar 2003

32 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam Press; First Edition edition (3 Mar. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0593050797
  • ISBN-13: 978-0593050798
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 14.6 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 637,188 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Amazon Review

At first glance The Cloud Garden seems a little unlikely: a pair of twentysomething former public school boys have a great time trekking through Central America and get caught up in a bit of bother. Tom is passionate about flowers and his family lives in a castle in Kent--"Isn't it just super?!". Paul, when he isn't "hacking his way through the jungle", works in the City.

If you can get through the kissy kissy PR and the hooray Henry enthusiasm, The Cloud Garden is actually an exciting yarn. Adventurer Paul Winder and orchid enthusiast Tom Hart Dyke met up in Mexico and decided to trek through the Darién Gap--a narrow bit of jungle on the border of Panama and Colombia. Tom wanted to find some new flowers and Paul wanted a challenge. They had almost made it when they were taken captive by a band of FARC guerilla fighters with a grudge against just about everybody, a serious grunge problem and an eye for a juicy ransom for some rich boys. Our heroes survived for nine months and emerged after a harrowing ordeal with a combination of hard work, endurance and a pinch of good luck. This captivating book is well written with youthful zest, a sparky sense of humour and the scary sense that these two just might set off for another adventure next summer. --Dwight Longenecker

Review

"Clearly, surviving a nine-month jungle kidnapping requires courage and endurance. But Hart Dyke and Winder came equipped with something else in addition: pluck. It's that quality, crackling on every page, that makes The Cloud Garden one of the strangest and most satisfying adventure reads in recent memory.""--Men's Journal" magazine "Written with humor and suspense, this is a vivid account of [Dyke's and Winder's] nine-month ordeal. Dual first-person viewpoints are seamlessly spliced together, and the format provides a prismatic presentation of contrasting attitudes, allowing each author to comment on the other.""--Publishers Weekly" "Told in alternating voices (which works surprisingly well), this is a well-written adventure story filled with intrigue and hope.""--Library Journal" "Readers will find themselves turning pages and delaying dinner while Winder and Dyke slowly blossom into the heroes of their own misguided adventure.""--BookPage"

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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Marmaduke Gentle on 16 Jun. 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
To describe the kidnapping and subsequent holding of two Englishmen by possible FARC guerillas in The Darien Gap for nine months, it would seem unnatural to use phrases such as funny, entertaining, and horticulturally insane; but they are more than appropriate.
Upon starting the book there is a question over how well it will read with the narration switching between Paul and Tom, however, it does read with fluidity, and the comments each of them has to make about the other are often amusing. Despite the ignorance and sometimes aggressive nature of their kidnappers you can't help but feel some sympathy for them stumbling around the jungle with no specific purpose except to eat, drink, destroy or abuse. The guerillas offer some superb individual characters ranging from the truly horrible "Bitch", to the alarmingly considerate "Will Smith."
No interest in orchids or horticulture are required to enjoy and be fascinated by this tale of bravery and courage under quite absurd circumstances.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By "vikkirimmer" on 15 Mar. 2003
Format: Hardcover
An unforgettable experience for the authors and readers alike.
The Cloud Garden by Tom Hart Dyke and Paul Winder is the true story of two backpackers who are kidnapped by murderous South American Guerillas and held captive for nine months in the jungle of The Darien Gap. Their extreme ordeal is relayed in a style that blends both Boys Own Adventure and extreme survival. The book is uplifting and moving, at turns funny and nail-bitingly thrilling. This is achieved by the mature mix of humourous tales with page-turning moments of suspense where the reader wonders what will happen next to the guys.
I loved the book and read it cover to cover in 24 hours. It made me laugh out loud in places and moved me near to tears in others as I marvelled at the authors sheer will power and determination to hang onto not just their lives but their sanity and most importantly their sense of humour too.
The authors manage to recreate the smells, sights and sounds of the jungle as easily as they lend their hands to caricaturing their captors with names that instantly give life to the characters that people the book.
Tom hart Dykes passion for Orchids and all things horticultural is both crazy and interesting , and his travelling companion Paul Winders laconic observations of his mad friends gardening obsession is as drily funny as anything Michael Palin has to offer on his travel logs.
It's not all humour, as the hardships that the pair encounter are graphically displayed in the book alongside Toms clowning and Pauls dry delivery.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book and would recommend it to anyone interested in travelling, adventure, Orchids (!) and the triumph of the human spirit over adversity!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By C. L. Smith on 22 July 2008
Format: Paperback
And now for something completely different.

Tom Hart Dyke, (the plant nut), and Paul Winder, (the climbing nut), tell the harrowing story of their capture in the Darien Gap.

"Don't go there" they are told again, and again, and again. Do they listen! Of course they didn't, if they had, they would not have been able to write this book.

With each young man giving their own accounts of their experiences throughout, they take us on a daunting journey. The story starts as a tale of their meeting. The colourful and detailed scenes give the reader (if they have an imagination) a real feel for the surroundings. The graphic details of the camps, the sights and smells, give the reader all that is needed to be dragged into the jungle with them.

As the story unfolds and the terror begins, you can't help feel the fear and dread. But with brilliantly punctuated humour, these two brave, potty, extrovert, confused, defiant, and terrified Brits, manage somehow to get out, not only with their lives, but with their sanity intact.

A song and dance routine, of a well known song from The Life of Brian, is now thought to be the British National Anthem by their Captors each of whom had be given nicknames by Tom and Paul. Given the terrible circumstances and the conditions they live in, it's hard not to feel some sort of pity for some of them who quite clearly didn't want to be their any more that Tom and Paul.

Tom's obsession continues as he badgers the guerrillas into taking him orchid hunting, and at his deepest hour, he designs a garden (as any plant nut would in his situation).

A brilliant tale of dogged determination to survive, humour and borderline insanity, constant fear of execution, then sudden release, kept me in suspense.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 21 Dec. 2004
Format: Paperback
I have just finished this book and really enjoyed it, it has kept my attention all the way through and left me with nothing but admiration for the two guys and what they endured, although what they entered into was to say the least ill advised, they seemed to cope with their ordeal with remarkable cheeriness when faced with some truly horrific circumstances, all in all a great read, well written, you will enjoy it!!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 15 Dec. 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Not your usual 'how I spent my kidnap' essay. I picked this up second hand in a Dubai bookshop, not expecting much from it, and was hugely pleased with what I found.
The clumsy and downright barking protagonists are in turn endearing, infuriating and hilarious. Gone are the macho action movie fantasies about what to do in a tight spot and in come song and dance numbers in the jungle along with abject fear, disarming hilarity and extreme gardening.
A great read, even my usually chick-lit obsessed partner couldn't put it down - so get it and enjoy it, you won't regret it.
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