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A rare treat - another book from the marvellous Tim Pears. It is hard to find superlatives to describe this novel, so I will limit myself to words which may persuade others to read it. On the face of it, Blenheim Orchard follows an Oxford family through a few months of their lives in 2003. But this is no sentimental family saga. Ezra and Sheena Peppin have three children, and the book deals with themes of middle-age and parenthood, while adolescence disturbs well-established family structures. It deals with friendship and work relationships, and the struggle we all have to come to terms with the circumstances of our lives while remaining sane.

This family are articulate and highly educated, and it is amusing to see Ezra and Sheena try to maintain their sense of "specialness" while teenage Blaise blows holes through so many of their pretensions and fake values. The failings of both parents are exposed from time to time, but this book is not an attack on the Peppins, but compassionately describes their struggle to live authentic lives among the cultural changes and work pressures of modern life.

This is a book which draws you in to the Peppins' world, so that when you put it down you find yourself wondering what will happen next. It's a book you read quickly but also want to make last a few days - a difficult task for this reader. I have recently read Gerard Woodward's "A Curious Earth", another exploration of family life, and would say that these two books are the best I have read this year. This one is highly recommended and if I could award five and a half stars I would do so.
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on 6 April 2007
Having read everything Tim Pears has written and noting that this book hasn't been trumpeted to the skies by the publisher, I just have to say it is staggeringly good. On the surface a simple story of a middle class family in Oxford over the course of the summer of 2003, it is, in fact, a devastating critique on our society and its moral vacuity as well as being an entertaining pageturner. The sense of impending disaster is palpable and I was utterly gripped from the first page to the last. Buy it, read it and then read his other books. The man is an unsung genius.
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One feels for the people caught up in this heart-breaking family saga, but one often smiles, reading about their struggles to keep things together, each of them locked in their private and individual assumptions and expectations, often getting things wrong, while endeavouring to get it right. The family consists of Ezra and Sheena, the parents, Blaise, the eldest at fourteen, and two boys, Hector aged 11, with three-year-old Louie an unplanned but much adored addition. What goes wrong? Well, almost everything. Ezra was a highly promising anthropologist, who spent his early career in Paraguay, studying a remote tribe and his stories of the tribal traditions are hair-raising to say the least. But he came home and married the fiercely independent-minded Sheena and got a job to keep them solvent in a small bottled water company, which, over the years proceeded to become, potentially, a major force in the business world. Sheena is involved in a protest to preserve a tract of land known as the Wasteland, and when this escapade fails, she continues her casual liaisons.

Then, prompted by a conversation with mutual friends Simon and Minty, Sheena suggests the family decamp to Brazil so Ezra can continue his anthropological work, he at first agrees, but as their daughter rapidly embarks on leaving adolescence behind, the idea falters. Blaise has no interest in going to Brazil - she has quite other ambitions.

The setting up of the final denouement is fraught with the worries and tensions of modern existence, brilliantly stitched together by Tim Pears. Each character is given their due and more, and we understand how things, as the saying goes, "things fall apart." This is a brilliantly insightful piece of work, a novel that genuinely saddens even as it makes you wryly smile, nod, yes, oh yes, this is so often how it is. A truly excellent novel.
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on 15 June 2009
He's a brilliant author - deals with domestic British love and the disintegration of relationships better than almost anyone except Glen Duncan. While it should not stop anyone from reading Blenheim Orchard, I can't understand why nobody has commented on its similarity to Revolutionary Road.
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on 24 June 2010
Pears has a knack of looking into relationships but I don't think that this is one of his better books. Lack of communication between the characters, bit too much on the 'Hippy' side and the ending leaves a lot to be desired-almost as if-ok that's enough I'll finish here.
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on 19 January 2010
I live in the area of Oxford portrayed in this novel and I have to say I barely recognise it, and its characters similarly fail to convince, least of all Sheena, the frustrated wife. Her animalistic trysts with an odiferous young hippy are really ludicrous, with more than a hint of Lady Chatterly. As for poor old Ezra, the inadequate husband, I found him similarly unengaging. In the end it's all just silly.
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on 23 June 2013
I am a big fan of Tim Pears and have thoroughly enjoyed two of his books. However, I am afraid that I didn't enjoy this book at all. At one point, around a third of the way through, I contemplated discarding the book altogether and only perservered because Pears is an exceptional writer and I was hoping that I would be more entertained as I read futher. I am an ex Oxford resident who, like another Oxford resident who wrote a critical review on this website, I didn't find the physical descriptions convincing and I found the principal characters equally unconvincing and unlikeable. The plot was also overly constructed and artificial; in writing a state of the nation type novel Pears seems to have wanted to throw everything from contemporary society, such as attending raves and a nod towards environmental activism. Pears does indeed have a gift for characterisation and the latter part of the book was an improvement, though not enough to make me give this novel a higher rating.
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on 15 October 2013
ok so i only read three pages. and i asked amazon for my money back. i don't know Tim Pears' work. He was recommended by amazon because i read some A.M. Homes book, whom i adore. Who knows? maybe he can write and just had a drunk editor.Just a warning, request a sample. The first few pages will either titillate you or make you barf. I sadly was in the second camp.
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