Book review: Love and death in the war of the roses
The Rose Grower by Michelle de Kretser Chatto pounds 10
Sunday 21 November 1999
De Kretser's writing is by turns poetic, metaphorical and delicately elliptical, capable of evoking a mood or a change in direction in the subtlest of ways. During his trial, Saint-Pierre finds a spider crouching "like a beauty spot" on the face of a bust by the door - "evidence of human fallibility". Morel's encounter with his beloved Sophie, the eponymous rose grower and the plain middle child of the Saint-Pierre family, is indicated obliquely: "The scent poured into his room, someone went clattering down the stairs, there was a button missing from his shirt." Roses recur as a trope of desire, both sensually and creatively; as an expression of that individual consciousness prohibited by loyalty to the Revolutionary movement. In nurturing her private obsession - to cultivate a truly crimson variety of rose (unknown in 18th-century Europe) - Sophie recognises the symbolic value of her task: roses are "like people ... liable to disconcert you, rarely running true to type". Sophie rejects the stultifying role ascribed to her by the Movement, and embraces instead a life of "accident and casual opportunity", which feeds into the novel's fateful outcome.
This is a richly-textured first novel by Sri Lankan-born de Kretser, whose deceptively simple narrative structure belies a complex interweaving of competing voices, and a sensitive understanding of the ideological conflicts at the heart of any war.
TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
The best underrated Christmas movies from Love, Actually to While You Were Sleeping
Grace Dent on TV: The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies was a beautifully shot, immensely considered drama
The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, review: Jason Watkins is brilliant, but real victim Joanna Yeates is reduced to a footnote
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food