A Thousand Orange Trees Paperback – 5 Aug 2002
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‘A magical novel.’ Lisa Tuttle, Time Out
‘Audacious feats of the imagination. This rich and complex novel is both harrowing and compelling.’ Nicola Humble, TLS
‘A rich deep well of stories as fantastic as dreams.’ Anne Chisholm, Observer
‘Superlative.’ Claire Messud, Vogue
‘Kathryn Harrison writes about the dark side of a woman's destiny with an intensity that makes you shiver.’ She
‘Seductive, earthy, shocking and emotional.’ Woman’s Journal
From the Back Cover
'"Audacious feats of the imagination. This rich and complex novel is both harrowing and compelling."'
NICOLA HUMBLE, 'TLS'
As Marie Louise de Bourbon, niece of Louis XIV, journeys south to marry the Spanish King, she is forced to abandon the cumbersome orange trees brought from her beloved Versailles, leaving them to wither in the Pyrenees. This loss presages her future in a court riven by intrigue. Marie's fate is dreamed of by Francisca de Luarca, who sits in a prison cell far from the Queen's chamber. This imaginative Castilian silk grower's daughter, the same age as the Queen, has fallen passionately in love with a young priest.
In this luscious, hypnotic novel, Kathryn Harrison twists together their stories, bringing to vivid life the wonders and the horrors of seventeenth-century Spain, a world convulsed by poverty and religious upheaval.
'"A rich deep well of stories as fantastic as dreams."'
ANNE CHISHOLM, 'Observer'
'"In this exquisite book Harrison rises above the historical novel to deliver a tale with all the vitality of today. Spellbinding."'
'"Kathryn Harrison writes about the dark side of a women's destiny with an intensity that makes you shiver."'
Top customer reviews
"A Thousand Orange Trees" has a few flaws. At times, some of the supporting characters, like Francisca's priest, are not as fully drawn as they could be. The Queen Mother is also a little too obviously villainous, which jars with the story's otherwise subtle narrative. The novel's style of jumping back and forth from past to present is engaging, but it can be a little difficult to follow.
Overall, however, "A Thousand Orange Trees" is a dark and magnificent novel about two women slowly drowning in a patriarchal society, neither of whom can liberate themselves from the prisons they find themselves in. The metaphors weave together beautifully, with Francisca's trade of silk-spinning standing in for the ways in which all the characters' fates intersect into the tapestry of their lives. Francisca is placed in a prison controlled by the Holy Office of the Inquisition, mirroring the Queen's entrapment in the stultifying world of palace etiquette. To escape the horrors of her imprisonment, Francisca dreams long fanciful day dreams about what it would be like to be the Queen. In turn, the real Queen tries to escape by becoming increasingly dependent on opiates. At its heart, "A Thousand Orange Trees" is about the death of childhood dreams and hopes of freedom. It's a darkly written story of faith, eroticism, prejudice, drug abuse, misogyny - all of which are universal themes - but it does also manage to capture the unique and often bizarre world of Habsburg Spain, as well.