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Chris Blocker

Literary snobbery and other thoughts by Chris Blocker

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The Orchardist

The Orchardist - Amanda Coplin

Imagine a time-lapse video of a rose in bloom. The bud is slowly pushed under. The petals unfold one by one. The color explodes out in waves like a supernova. (If you need a visual, here's a YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6LBODTEgoFg.) Gorgeous, right? It's easy to enjoy a four-minute video of a rose unfurling its beauty. It's pleasant to walk by a rose, enjoy its color and its odor. But keep in mind that rose likely took a month and a half to two months to bloom. Would you want to sit there and watch it, day after day, hour after hour? Would you appreciate the beauty in the same way, or would you grow tired of it?

 

That's the image that comes to mind when I think of Amanda Coplin's The Orchardist . It's a beautiful story with echos of a different era of writing. The language is wonderful and the story is equally well developed. The characters are good, though I never quite understood their choices and actions. Overall, The Orchardist is a well-written novel and certainly has its beauty. But the details and the pacing left me wanting to hit fast-forward. I'm a patient person, and I like a slow build-up, but there's a point where the necessity comes into question. There has to be a reason for such narrative choices. You could argue the style pays homage to the naturalistic novels of which era this novel takes place in. You could also argue it somehow emulates the daily routine of Talmadge, the novel's orchardist. That would be fine if the story wasn't about harems, murders, and prison. Still, the novel largely worked if it wasn't a bit tedious at times. I liked it to a point. But the end really dragged the story out and I didn't see a reason for it at all.

 

Despite this novel being somewhat of a chore to read, I would give Coplin another shot to entertain me. There's wonderful writing in these pages, it just didn't all come together in either the most captivating or enriching way. Those who enjoy a slow build-up and delivery, even when it doesn't make sense, will probably like this novel. It's a good story. I just think the pacing was way off.