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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 15 October 2012
Set in Northwest America at the turn of the last century, The Orchardist is a beautiful and haunting tale, one very different from the more typical Western, seeped in an atmosphere that feels authentic to the period, wrapped up in a deep, painful deliberation that reflects the nature of the characters and the pace of life during that time.

Part of the reason for that has to do with the choice of subject - an aging orchard owner - which takes the theme of self-sufficiency, hardship, endurance, perseverance and the search for justice and order, but approaches it from an unusual angle that touches on deeper associated feelings of loneliness, solitude, the beauty and the pain of existence, the love of life and the regret for its loss. No one is immune to such feelings, and Talmadge, the solitary orchardist in the mature years of his life, has had his share of pain, most acutely through the disappearance of his sister many years ago - but the appearance of two young feral 13 year-old pregnant runaway girls, Jane and Della, on his estate is to have an unexpected and even greater impact on his life.

The story provides one means of approaching these themes, but the writing of Amanda Coplin - her debut novel sparking a bidding war for publication rights in the USA - is the most important factor in making it so meaningful and affecting. The sentiments expressed are reminiscent of the quiet dignity of Faulkner's treatment of the connections between the human soul and the land, but Coplin's clear prose achieves much of the same impact, achieving the same kind of intimacy as well as an expansive outlook, but without the labyrinthine stylisations.

And without unnecessary exposition - the pain of loss that exists within the lives of Talmadge, Jane and Della is one that is not only related to past incidents, but is transformed by the individual personalities of each of the characters over time into something indefinable, something that forges a restless unsettlement that leads to actions that are inexplicable even to the characters themselves. These are the driving forces behind what on the surface is a simple story - time and loss, anger and despair, the beauty of existence and the pain of living with oneself - related at a slow deliberate pace, with clear precise prose and some moments of beautiful poetic observation that brings the nature of these sentiments fully to the surface, and has such a devastating impact on the reader by the end.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I have really struggled with this review. The Orchardist is beautifully written, but so slow moving. So slow and so sad that it really brought down my mood. It is not that I dislike stories that are emotional, and can usually cope with a slow-paced novel, it was just so woeful at times that I struggled to carry on.

The author has created a cast of characters that are likeable, that are well-drawn and that are ultimately good, and she has drawn them very well. However, they don't have a very good time throughout the story their mood reflected on the whole story.

There is a great sense of place throughout the novel, and descriptive prose seems to be where this author feels most comfortable and did make up for the lack of quality dialogue at times.

I have to praise the author, for this is her debut novel and it is not bad and maybe it is just not to my taste. However, I do feel that the novel would benefit from losing some of the padding in the second half.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I've been totally engrossed in this utterly charming and heartbreakingly sad story for the last few days. It was my first read of 2013 and I'll be very surprised if it doesn't make it into my top 3 of the year.

The book is set in late 19th/early 20th century America in the area around Washington state and is the story of William Talmadge who, having lost his father, mother and sister in fairly quick succession, has made a comfortable if sometimes lonely life for himself as a fruit farmer, amassing quite a large and successful estate but preferring to sell his wares at the local market rather than go into partnership with big business. His best friend (and my favourite character after Talmadge) is the town herbalist and midwife Caroline Middey - always referred to by her full name, never just Caroline, she's a very frank and down-to-earth woman who isn`t afraid to tell it like it is. He also forms a quiet and lasting friendship with the group of itinerant Native Americans who arrive on his land every year to help harvest the fruit.

When two young, heavily pregnant girls are spotted stealing apples from his market stall stealing apples, and later appear on his land foraging for food, Talmadge feels a need to rescue and look after them; all the more so when he uncovers their shockingly brutal background. He gradually earns their trust and for a while they live harmoniously alongside each other, but it's not long before dark forces from the girls' past return to wreak havoc and set in motion a tragic series of events.

The story unfolds over the next 20 years or so as Talmadge struggles to hold his makeshift family together. At times it's quirky and whimsical, and at others desperately sad. It might be a bit too sedate and understated for some, but the vivid imagery used to describe the harsh rugged landscape, together with the beautifully observed interactions between these reserved and damaged people, really moved me. The ending is hugely poignant and I was really sorry to reach the final page.

Amanda Coplin's astonishingly accomplished debut novel has taken the American publishing industry by storm and I'm sure it will do the same over here. Despite its size (the large paperback edition runs to 426 pages) I read it over a couple of days as I kept making excuses to get back to it. What a great start to my reading year.
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on 7 February 2016
A good story, but a bit of a slog to get through. I feel like the author spends so much time describing the scenery and the details, but then glosses over the actual important parts that are the most interesting! I tend to read books over and over again, but this is not one I will return to.
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on 27 March 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I loved this novel. Every minute of it was a pleasure. Set in Northwest America at the turn of the century it has a slow, deliberate pace reflecting Talmadge's measured pace of life in the orchard.

Talmadge lives alone on a remote orchard. His life is laid-back and unhurried moving with the seasons he tends his apples and apricots with love and care. Talmadge's life is one of routine and serenity broken only by the visit, once a year, from the native horse wranglers who move through the countryside with large groups of horses to sell at auction.

After Talmadge's father died in a mining accident his mother set off on a trek through Oregon to Washington state, with him and his sister, Elspeth. They settled in a shack and began the orchard. After the loss of both his mother and his sister (in mysterious circumstances)Talmadge tended the orchard alone sometimes seeing his friend Caroline Middey, a herbalist and midwife from the local town or Clee, a native horse wrangler.

That is until his peace is disturbed by two pregnant, almost feral, young girls who appear from nowhere and turn his life upside down. His natural kindness and gentleness mean that he cannot abandon these girls and he must open his heart and his life to the outside world for the first time. The effect is haunting, poetic and unforgettable. The Orchardist is a beautiful novel and amazingly accomplished for a first novel.
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VINE VOICEon 13 March 2016
I really do read a lot of books. Good books, bad books, fiction, non-fiction, genre, new, old, prose , poetry (a bit), long, short, allsorts. But I can't remember the last time I enjoyed a book as much as "The Orchardist", a novel set in the American West at the turn of the last century.

Why is this book so enjoyable ? Well, any summary of its story will make it sound very depressing, it has a relatively small scope and cast of characters and is quite slow paced. But the plot is very strong, unpredictable and engaging. As early as page 31, when heroically stoic fruit grower Talmadge journeys to see the evil Michaelson the reader can see the author will unfold events that hold interest and advance the storyline as well as logically fitting with earlier events.

The characters are mainly revealed through their actions, there is little or no authorial comment explaining the characters, their internal thoughts are also generally a closed book, or, when reported, reveal little self awareness. This all feels very real and certainly makes the reader make their own decision about the characters.

Amanda Coplin tells her story "straight" there are few stylistic tricks to distract, it is played out in full, all the main characters' ultimate fates are more or less revealed. What a different ending, what a different story (and how much more uplifting) if Coplin had stopped with the scene where Della opens Angelene's present (p 346), but I guess this would have been less complete than the ending given, which is thematically and logically the right place to stop.

Like any simple seeming tale, this one is full of possible meanings, with the Old West turning into the Modern World as the Orchardist and his family play out their tragic story. Family issues,how to live your life and even good and evil themselves are all examined.

I will just have to forgive Coplin's lack of speech marks to represent direct speech, a very modern "innovation" which I really dislike. Apart from this, Idon't have anything negative to say about this thoughtful and engrossing novel.
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Set in the early part of the twentieth century in the American North West, and hidden amongst a remote community, Talmadge is the taciturn orchardist whose bone deep grief sets him apart, and whose attachment to his beloved apples and apricots are his salvation. When two pregnant girls creep onto his land, he is unprepared for the effect that their presence will have, not just on him, but also on the landscape.

The slow, and almost mesmerizing quality of The Orchardist is so finely done, that even before you reach the end of the first chapter, you realise that you are reading something very special. There is an oblique gentleness to the story, and sometimes it seems that not much is happening, but therein lies its strength, as this book has moments which are far from gentle, and which shock their way into your subconscious with a real jolt. However, there is such a beautiful feeling to the story that even with its burden of tortured feelings and hidden emotions, there is always the hope that the fragility of life will triumph.

To say any more about the story would be a complete injustice, as this book deserves to be read without any preconceptions.

Without doubt, this impressive debut novel will feature in my best books of 2013 list.
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on 22 April 2013
This was a very enjoyable read, I came to really care about the characters and got a real feel for their lives and the surroundings in which they lived.Hard to believe this was a first novel, I will be looking out for others hopefully in the future.
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on 1 February 2013
I have to say that I really enjoyed this book. The writing style was unusual and beautiful. The story, although bleak for all the main characters, Talmadge, Jane, Della, Angelene, Caroline and Clee was not sad or upsetting but more a statement of how things are.
There are no manufactured happy endings here, and that is just how it should be.
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on 19 March 2013
I have just finished reading this book and I don't know how I am going to follow it. It was a lovely lovely book, and I loved the characters, the way it was all explained. I think this could have gone on to a further book so we hear more of the characters. I will be looking out for the next book written by Amanda Coplin, and remember her name.
Very Well Done.
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