If, like me, you enjoy reading books which examine the human condition, this is a must read for you. The Orchid House, like all Avril Joy's books, cuts deep into the blood and guts of life and explores the issues and struggles that we all experience at some time in our lives. A story of death and rebirth, this beautifully crafted novel revolves around the lives of 4 desperate souls living in a self imposed exile from the world. Set within the confines of a formal Victorian garden, managed, controlled and full of order, these characters exist in chaos, haunted by the death of a loved one, consumed with guilt, pain and loss.
Roma. Her life straddles two worlds, neither quite real. The former a life in paradise, a dream life full of passion and colour shockingly brought to an end by the power of the sea. The present, a life of going through the motions numbness - until the arrival one day of Max.
Will. Weighed down by a guilty secret, he buries himself in his work - tending the garden. The Orchid House is the jewel in his crown, his passion, his life, his obsession - until he meets Roma.
Madeline. Harvests the garden. Immortalising it through the production of tinctures and remedies, she strives to keep it alive, like the memory of her husband lost in WW2 and a child - drowned.
Max. Always on the move, running from place to place but always back to the garden - to Will. Hedonistic, domineering and decietful he harbours many dark secrets, secrets that threaten to destroy him.
The Garden. Formal, demanding, needy, never resting, always changing. Enticing, stunningly beautiful, full of colour and heady aromas holding their secrets in every stem, leaf and flower.
Conflict. The story is intercut with a commentary on the Falklands war. The village experience - the annual deluge of tourists as an invasion. The visitors to the garden are a necessary invasion. The precious orchids are plundered from paradise. Men risk their lives to possess them.
A heady mix of botanical fact and narrative fiction, this is an intelligent well observed novel, full of detail, full of emotion and ultimately full of love.