Since seeing the beautiful Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Dolittle in My Fair Lady as a young girl, and later reading Pygmalion, I have been enamored with London’s flower sellers. So when I saw this book on the “new” shelf at my library, I didn’t think twice about taking it home with me. I didn’t even read the back cover or the first page before jumping right in, and once I did I couldn’t put it down.
This is a story within a story. Tilly Harper is a young woman beginning a new life, far away from her country home, as an employee of Mr. Shaw’s Home for Watercress and Flower Girls in London. Florrie and Rosie are children doing their best to survive on the streets of London selling flowers, and looking out for one another. Shortly after she arrives at the Home for Watercress and Flower Girls, Tilly finds a journal that once belonged to Florrie, written more than 30 years earlier.
As the story unfolds the great love of Florrie for her little sister Rosie is told along side Tilly’s jealousy of her own sister and the events leading up to their falling out. When Tilly reads of Rosie’s disappearance in the journal she becomes determined to discover what became of the little girl, and in the process learns more about herself than she bargained for. Though I found it a tad predictable, I didn’t think the characters could see the whole picture like I could, and they believably took longer to put the pieces of the puzzle together.
It is more than a historical drama. It is a story of love and redemption. It is a story of self realization, for more than one character. It is as beautifully told as the flowers in the story.
That alone makes for a great novel, but the part that really captured me, was the truth behind the novel. Hazel Gaynor goes above and beyond by sharing her inspiration for the book with us. She shares fascinating additional resources that she came across while researching the book, and the story of the man who inspired her character, Mr. Shaw. I love to learn new things through historical fiction, Hazel Gaynor helps take the challenge out of it. I can follow her carefully researched path to more knowledge on the subjects instead of stumbling down my own. It’s kind of a two in one fiction/non-fiction book. Because of all this, I will certainly be watching for more books from her in the future.
Curious about some of the themes in A Memory of Violets? Here’s some additional reading.
Another installment will air tonight. Am I looking forward to it? Well, yeah, but I wasn’t too sure to begin with.
For a book series that is near and dear to my heart, I was admittedly pretty worried about how it would translate on screen. So many of my favorite books have been turned into horrible movies. I’ll also admit that at first I wasn’t too excited about the casting. Claire’s too skinny and Jamie is not big enough, and his hair’s not red enough. But I have come around. The actors are convincing, and now I can’t decide if Sam Heughan is actually really hot, or if I only think so because he’s Jamie Frasier. Because we all know Jamie Frasier is smokin. That’s just a fact. They really have done a pretty good job with it, and I can’t wait to see where they go from here. Will they stick to the books? I do hope so, but how are they going to age the characters?
So if you haven’t seen it yet, I will warn you, it’s not one to watch with the in-laws. It gets pretty steamy right from the get go. Mr. Herbs and I watch it together, often with a dram of my favorite scotch (just to get us in the right highland-like mindset). It has enough action and adventure to keep him happy, and the steamy bits? Well, I don’t think he’s complaining about those either…
Welcome to my first real post! In considering what to possibly write I decided I should focus on whats important to me. I am a Certified Master Herbalist and a librarian, and have, for so many years been seeking out books that have to do with plants, herbal medicine and the history and folklore of healing. I thought why not focus on that unique, little genre of fiction? You can look up all the great herbal resources out there on any herbalists website. But if you’re like me and love a good story, you want more than a dry text book. You want to feel apart of another world, become immersed in your learning in every way possible; something I think can only be accomplished through reading fiction.
So, I hope you enjoy reading my reviews and recommendations!
I wanted to start off this blog by briefly reviewing a book that I think will appeal to a wide variety of readers, Elizabeth Gilbert’s latest novel, The Signature of All Things. It is a story about life and love, suffering and beauty.
This is the story of the life of Alma Whittaker. She is born into a life of science. From an early age she is encouraged to study the world around her, and to engage in conversation with great men of science and discovery. Her world is the huge estate she grows up on, and it’s impressive library and greenhouses. Alma is not the kind of character which you can imagine yourself in her shoes, but she is still relate-able enough to gain your sympathies. Through her lifetime you will follow her on her journey of self discovery, and then onto self actualization and appreciation.
Like her heroine, Gilbert’s writing is filled with stoic grace and dignity. She conquers the topics of botany, evolution, and theology, reaching those not just looking for a good story, but also those interested in these sciences and the history behind them. I loved it because it introduced me to the real world history of the Kew Royal Botanic Gardens, Captain Cook, and the plant hunters that made botany what it has become today. It touched on the history of botanical illustration, the roots of evolutionary theory, and the first western contact with Tahiti and the surrounding islands by missionaries and naturalists. I found myself heading to Google more than once to find out more about a subject Gilbert mentioned in passing. This is the kind of story I enjoy because I went into it with a little knowledge of the subject, and came out inspired to find out even more.
Interested in reading more about the ideas explored in The Signature of All Things? Try these non-fiction books:
So you’ve read the about me section. It doesn’t say too much. How, you are wondering, did I decide to write a blog about plants and books? What is the connection? Kind of a niche subject. Well I wanted to combine what I am doing already into something cohesive, and maybe something that someone else might enjoy too. At least I hope you will.
This is the story of me. I’ll try to be brief.
When I was a freshman in high school I took an off campus vocational course called Advanced Ornamental Horticulture. I was a pretty unmotivated student, finding so much more outside of school that interested me. You know like boys and partying. But they made me go, so my two friends who dreamed of one day owning a flower shop talked me into signing up for this course with them. We learned to work in the greenhouse, and design landscaping and fix sprinkler systems…all pretty dull (but useful) for the most part. That winter we had to do an internship at a flower shop. Preceding Valentine’s Day we made hundreds of bows and answered calls and took orders for a week or so.
Fast forward about a year, I’m 16 and looking for a part-time job. I don’t have many skills and no experience…except for that brief internship at a flower shop. So I decide to apply to a local flower shop. I got the job and the manager and assistant manager of that little shop took me under their wings and taught me everything they knew about floral design. I loved it, it was creative, fun and fast paced. I worked there for about two years before moving on, but I now had a skill that I would use the rest of my life. I have now worked at multiple shops as a floral designer, as well as a craft store designing dried and silk flowers over the years. I still even occasionally do flowers for a friend or family members wedding or other special event. I do love flowers. They’ll always have a place in my heart. Oh, and by the way, those two friends who always wanted to own a flower shop together? Well that never happened, in fact neither of them ever even worked in a flower shop after that first Valentine’s day. Just goes to show, we don’t really know what we want when we’re in high school do we?
Fast forward again many years. I became a stay at home mom with two kids for a while. After they both started school, I was getting bored and wanted to find a part time job. A brand new library had just opened up blocks from my house, and as a book lover, I thought that sounded like a great place to work, and applied. Once again the fates looked favorably upon me and I got the job. It was wonderful! I worked with fun, smart, like-minded people. It was always different, every day, busy, challenging and once again, I even got to be a little creative. But after a few years I began to feel that there was more for me. I wanted to go back to school, I wanted to help people beyond just finding them a good book or helping with research papers. I started to look around and see what kind of options might fit me.
Then one day while reading a blog I frequented on natural health, the author mentioned the herb school she attended, in Colorado (yes, herb schools are real!) Hey, I lived in Colorado! It seemed so right. Next thing ya know, I’d graduated from that same herb school two years later, with a certification as a master herbalist. That was the same year my mom died of cancer, which really made me begin to consider the importance of taking care of ourselves everyday, and I felt driven to help people find a way to take charge of their health.
I had since moved to a new library district, where I was excited to take a more active role in children’s programming, readers advisory and teaching classes, and I opened up my own private herbal clinic and apothecary in Northern Colorado. Both my paths kept unfolding together. For a long time I ran my little clinic, working at the public library, and teaching herb classes at a local college and occasionally community gardens and special events.
I have currently put my private practice on hold to go back to school once again. I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in 2020, and will be attending Graduate school to pursue a Master of Public Health in the beginning summer of 2021. You can never learn enough! At the same time, I still work full time at a library. I spend my time at the veterinary hospital library at a major research University, surrounded by books about animals and health and science, and even herbs.
So books and plants really have always been there for me. I just want to share with you what I do, and what I love.