Very enjoyable book especially for those who love history as there is a great deal of historical detail. According to the New York Times Book Review, "This tale of forbidden love set against the turmoil of a country in chaos makes for both intelligent and satisfying reading" The "forbidden love" mentioned in this quote is a male/male love affair by the way so if you find that theme offensive you may not want this book. That love affair is actually a fairly small part of the plot of this book.
Interesting historical fiction, but not one of my favorite of Gregory's stories. It was well written, I just did not empathize with the protagonist, John Trandescant, until well into the story, which made it a little harder for me to get into. I did not understand his unquestioning views and acceptance of some things that seemed very unfair, but realized later that these traits that I found unlikeable were part of his character growth and story arc.
My difficulty relating to the character may have just been because I had certain expectations due to the other Gregory novels that I have read and loved. A big part of what drew me into her other books were the female protagonists and the struggles that women had to face in the time periods that her other books are set in.
This one begins in England in 1603, the year that Queen Elizabeth died and the Stuart era began. The main character is a gardener who works for a few different courtiers over the decades of his career, designing and planting great gardens.
He gets involved with traveling and bringing rare plants back to England, and being a collector of rarities becomes his trademark in the gardening world. This was interesting and a bit different, since I have never read a historical fiction novel that covered this ground before(I tend to get bored with the same old court intrigue and bitchy, rich people spending money and having affairs).
If you garden and know plants you will probably enjoy this book very much and if you don't, you may find yourself a bit bored with all of the plant talk, but it is still worth reading.
There is a sequel called Virgin Earth that I am interested in reading to see what happens next. It will follow the main character's son to Virginia and I think that I will enjoy that one more. I found the son a little easier to identify with and I empathized with him more.
I enjoyed this book enormously, but am ashamed to admit that I had completed both this book and its sequel before I realized that the main characters, John Tradescant the Elder and his son, (John the Younger)were true historical figures. They were the first botanists in England and England's most famous gardeners. A teriffic story of a man's unquestioning loyalty to his master and King. If you read this book, be sure to follow up with the sequel, Virgin Earth. Philippa Gregory never disappoints me.
This is Philippa Gregorys usual well written story of English royalty and the politics, intrigue, deception and corruption of 17th century England. King James is newly crowned the King of England and he has surrounded himself with loyal trusted advisors such as Cecil Roberts and the Duke of Buckingham. The story is told from the point of view of John Tradescant, the gardener for these men. Johns skill as a gardener catches the attention of the powerful men of England who want to create a showcase garden in their palaces to show off their wealth to the royal court.
Although this book has a lot of details of plants, I enjoyed all the descriptions and especially of the travels to procure plants rare to England. This is not simply a book about the gardens of England, but the character development of John and his son John show how the attitudes of the English common people are changing towards their royalty and their quest for freedom and the ability to possess their own private land. What is happening in America at this time is having an impact on the English populace and they are starting to get dissatisfied with the extravagance of the English royalty while the country is suffering from bad harvests and the plague. Although I enjoyed this book, this is not my favorite book by this author. There were some places where she went into too much of the same detail and the book dragged in a few places.
In my opinion it was not her best work. My favorite of hers would be "The Other Boleyn Girl". However, the theme was very interesting. The book is based on the story of a head gardener for the king Charles I of England and previously to several other important historical figures such as the Duke of Buckingham and Sir Robert Cecil. He was a most respected gardener who was also a botanist and traveller and who introduced many species of plants, trees and flowers from all over the world to the famous English Gardens that we know and love. What impressed me was the fact that Mrs. Gregory based her novel on a figure of such humble importance and made the book so believable and interesting. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes the genre of historical fiction, gardening, English royal history or has read other Philippa Gregory books.
Philippa Gregory, the great writer of historical fiction, places this one in 17th century England. Times book review said "this tale of forbidden love set against the turmoil of a country in chaos makes for both intelligent and satifying reading. This book, written in 1998 has a sequel, Virgin Earth
Not one of my Gregory favorites, this novel tells the tale of a lowly, loyal gardener and his service to two shockingly different lords. Perhaps because she does not have real life, larger than life kings to write about, the characters feel small and unreal. A decent, easy read, but not her best.
John Tradescant, the protagonist in this novel, was a great gardener in the post-Elizabethan era. The wonderful work that he did was achieved by obtaining samples of rare plants, unknown at that time, from around the world. He did not name any of them after himself, but his surname was given to a family of flowering plants from the New World: Transescantia, known to many people as spiderwort, a very pretty trailing vine with star shaped flowers. Some of his gardening achievements were unique for his time, such as enclosing gardens in hollow brick walls that were heated so that sub-tropical plants would bear fruit. The records of his trip to Russia are still extant. Since so little is available about his life, I recommend this book if you are at all interested in the history of gardening in England.
As a Philippa Gregory fan since THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL, I'm sad to say that EARTHLY JOYS was a big disappointment for me. The main character, John Tradescant, a renowned 17th-century gardener, simply wasn't interesting enough to carry an entire narrative.
As written, he was SO two dimensional with annoyingly pathetic self-esteem, deriving his worth and value solely from his service to better men than himself, his Lords and Masters.
Perhaps he could've been a supporting character in a book about someone else, but 500+ pages of this man's slightness toward his own home and family, a devoted wife and son, in favor of his deep homosexual passions for noblemen was just plain meh.
The horticulture was interesting at times, but that component also became mundane after a while, especially if you're not into gardening!
I'm still yawning.
So I give EARTHLY JOYS 2/5 stars and certainly won't bother with the sequel. No thanks.
Whether he is nurturing a single rare seedling into a blossom or planning acres of royal gardens, John Tradescant's fame & skill as a gardener are unsurpassed in England. Tradescant's talents soon come to the attention of Duke of Buckingham, the lover of King Charles I.
A historical encounter with the royal gardner to the Duke of Buckingham. John Tradescant has always been faithful to his masters and his craft but he gambles everything and follows Buckingham to court, to war and to the forbidden territories of love.