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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very funny and surprisingly readable
Essentially a portrait of John Larouche, orchid hunter and thief extraordinaire, as well as (surprisingly) supporting the conservation movement, this laconically humorous tale takes us into the depths of the Everglades, the forests of the Far East and the hot-houses of the rich, famous and crooked.
There are some strange asides, that illustrate the type of enigmatic...
Published on 20 Nov 2002 by Amazon Customer

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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Rubbish
I'm compelled to write a review for this book because I find it unbelievable that it hasn't received anything less than 4 stars. The book completely lacks focus, it's rambling becomes so tiresome I found it difficult to finish. I found John Laroche extremely interesting, I wanted to understand him and his compulsive obsessions, but since there are only about 1 and a half...
Published on 22 Oct 2007 by Carl


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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very funny and surprisingly readable, 20 Nov 2002
By 
Amazon Customer "Bones" (Newcastle-on-Tyne, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession (Paperback)
Essentially a portrait of John Larouche, orchid hunter and thief extraordinaire, as well as (surprisingly) supporting the conservation movement, this laconically humorous tale takes us into the depths of the Everglades, the forests of the Far East and the hot-houses of the rich, famous and crooked.
There are some strange asides, that illustrate the type of enigmatic person who goes in for the underworld orchid trade; tales of frog poachers, happy in their slimy occupation; capsicum and bromeliad growers who dump the whole crop in a fit of pique; collectors who also spray-paint pigeons' tails.
In all, this reads more like a novel than an investigation into the illegal orchid trade, but loses no credibility for that, rather, it lends a more accessible quality to the book than it would otherwise have.
A very funny, worthwhile read.*****.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Only read this if you can afford to buy an orchid afterwards, 17 May 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession (Paperback)
If you like plants then I think you will like this book..... Why the uncertainty? ..... I am a self confessed plant-nut and thought the book was great ..... but maybe the less botanically minded might be less keen? The author, a journalist by profession, takes you straight to Florida! You are there with her ..... whether wading waist-deep in the dark and dank Everglades or, freshly showered, visiting an over-blown floral show in suburban Miami. From greenhouse to alligator wrestling, from courthouse to swamp you accompany the author as she tries to understand the book's central character - a compulsive orchid collector. I have read it twice and I know I will return to it. I hope you enjoy it too! (P.S. It makes an excellent companion read to "Orchid Fever" by Eric Hansen) And don't say I didn't warn you when you find yourself buying an orchid ..... or two ..... or three .....
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Flowers for the lady, 16 Sep 2005
By 
Stephen A. Haines (Ottawa, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
The Dutch once endured a consuming mania for tulips. Intense competition for bulbs led to bankruptcies resulting from wild speculations, families were disrupted, and fortunes were won and lost. While "tulipmania" subsided, a new mania has arisen. More sedate yet more widespread, orchid collecting is a multimillion dollar business. Orlean portrays the passions involved in orchid collection and breeding in this fascinating work. Unlike tulips, which are limited in species, orchids encompass thousands, with the number of natural species likely doubled by breeder hybridization. Orlean's account depicts the history and business of orchid collecting, identifying and commercialisation. Orchidmania today is only slightly less intense than that of the 17th Century Dutch Republic. Orlean shows that collectors and breeders are highly competitive, aggressive, personalities, ready to engage in whatever is deemed necessary to achieve their goals.
Orlean's fascination with orchids began with the arrest and trial of John Laroche, collector, blackmarketeer and general eccentric. Laroche becomes her pivot point for relating the history of orchid growing and collecting in Florida. She takes us along on her visits to breeders and collectors. She pursues them into Florida swamps and to orchid shows. Everywhere she explores and everyone she meets evokes the same feelings - vigorous competition, unbridled ambition, deep suspicion and a continual skirting with the law. Through all her encounters, Laroche hovers like a malign spirit, sometimes guiding her, sometimes taunting her. She seems captivated by him, his eccentricities simultaneously attracting and repelling her.
This highly personalised account is a compelling read, with Orlean's feelings candidly expressed. The persistence of Laroche becomes, finally, almost tedious. The fascinating history of the orchid industry and the other figures she encounters might easily have displaced him as the central character. His erratic life, with swift changes from one interest to another, might interest a psychologist. Here, LaRoche almost becomes a non sequitor. He might have been dispensed with in a chapter. Orlean, almost unwillingly, remains bound to follow his fate, to whatever end. Her attentions meet indifferent response. They're nearly unrequited. Still, he manages to lead her through the swamps in her new-found quest to locate a particular orchid in the wild. It's not a pleasant journey, but one which she recounts in vivid prose.
Some readers will know this book was the subject of the film, "Adaptation". The film is the story of the story and, in many respects, is a better portrayal than Orlean achieves. There is far too much well-presented information here lacking in the film. That redeems whatever faults Orlean may exhibit in this account. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An absolute must read!!!, 24 April 2005
By 
D. Leivers - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession (Paperback)
I decided to read this book after watching the film "Adaptation" on DVD and I am very glad I did. Orlean reports on a world of deception and obsession whilst shadowing one of Americas' most notorious Orchid collectors. Written in what is very much a reportage style this book I believe has widespread appeal and is well worth checking out.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Many books in one, 20 Feb 2002
By A Customer
This is a biography, a travel diary of South Florida, a history of orchid hunting and horticulture, and a great story. I read the book while making my annual visit to South Miami and felt that it added flavour to my appeciation of familiar people and places (both in Florida and in the UK). Even as a recalcitrant brown-thumb I truly enjoyed this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars sheer brilliance, 24 April 1999
By A Customer
literary non-fiction at its very best -- luminous writing, sharp reporting, soulful introspection -- and a subject that grows more fascinating as the book goes on, thanks to the writer's skills. i'm giving this one to everyone i know.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wow!, 6 Jan 2014
This review is from: The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession (Paperback)
I picked this at random as I thought it would be different and was immediately submerged in a fascinating world of smuggling, obsession, enchantment and some of the most extradoinarily colourful characters I have read about. You couldn't make up and she hasn't. The author brilliantly opens the lid on a genuinely compuslive and bizarre, yet strangely genteel new world which is going on all around us. I loved this.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, 27 Feb 2013
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This review is from: The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession (Paperback)
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I thoroughly enjoyed reading 'The Orchid Thief'. Despite the fact that nothing much happens throughout the entire book. The author is such a skilled writer that she easily maintains the readers interest and passes along a lot of interesting information in the process. Her writing style is so smooth that it's an inherently easy book to read. I'm not convinced that it reads like a novel (which another reviewer suggests) but nor is it anything like a textbook. Rather, it's an absorbing and entertaining review of one dimension of the writer's life during a period that she was investigating the Orchid trade. It's an illuminating narrative into an industry that is populated with some fascinating individuals - and the author paints wonderful visual pictures of those individuals. As an aside, it also provides some fascinating insight into the history of Florida, and especially the relationship between the US government and the Native Americans that live there.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Obsession in the Florida swamps, 3 July 2011
This review is from: The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession (Paperback)
A decade ago, Deborah Moggach's 'Tulip Fever' and Anna Pavord's 'Tulip' were pipped to publication by 'The Orchid Thief'. Like 'Nathaniel's Nutmeg', 'Mauve' and a string of other subsequent books, all were recognisably part of the vogue pioneered by Dava Sobel's 'Longitude' for books taking as their starting-point a very specific topic and using it to inquire ever more widely into that topic's socio-historical context.

Susan Orlean has this 'ripple' effect down to a fine art. A staffer on the 'New York Times', her attention was caught one day by the case against John Laroche, convicted by a Florida court of removing scores of rare orchids from the Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve. The plants were destined for the nursery run by Laroche in collaboration with the local Seminole tribe, where they were to be cloned and sold to collectors around the world. Yet Laroche turns out to be no petty crook: there are principles, albeit ones likely to lead to a profit, behind his crime. After two years of following this complex man around, Orlean concludes that Laroche is "the most moral amoral person I've ever known".

So is 'The Orchid Thief' a biography? No; nor is it a travel book, though we learn much about the topography of southern Florida; nor again a botanical companion, though it is full of information about the varieties, breeding and collecting of orchids. But what Orlean does so successfully is to apply her journalist's instincts, and an easy way with words, to exploring deep into the psyche of the people whose lives are taken up, to the exclusion of almost everything else, with acquiring examples of some of the rarest and most beautiful plants on the planet.

This is therefore a tale of possession and obsession. Susan Orlean takes us with her on a multi-faceted journey: into the swamps in search of orchids; into the quirky, backwoods culture of Florida's hinterland; into the history of orchids and of rare species collecting; and into the lives of present-day collectors and the bizarre world of orchid trade fairs.

To enjoy this book, you need know nothing about exotic plants, or even be a keen gardener. You certainly don't need to have liked the film 'Adaption', in which a version of Orlean's character is played by Meryl Streep. I hated it!
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Rubbish, 22 Oct 2007
By 
Carl (Darlington, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession (Paperback)
I'm compelled to write a review for this book because I find it unbelievable that it hasn't received anything less than 4 stars. The book completely lacks focus, it's rambling becomes so tiresome I found it difficult to finish. I found John Laroche extremely interesting, I wanted to understand him and his compulsive obsessions, but since there are only about 1 and a half chapters dedicated to him, there wasn't a chance. Instead the book dedicated 150 pages to repetitive (and dull and chronologically jumbled) descriptions of orchid hunters from the past and the extremes they'd go to obtain them, which made nothing more than one obvious point. Oh not to mention Orleans preoccupation with herself. I've seen it written a few times that the failure lies in the fact that the subject couldn't carry a 200 page book, however I fail to agree. In more experienced hands I'm sure this could have been a fantastic book. Next time Orlean turns her hand to writing a novel maybe she could call Donald Kaufman for some tips.
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The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession
The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession by Susan Orlean (Paperback - 4 May 2000)
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