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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Thousand Orange Trees by Kathryn Harrison

Title: A Thousand Orange Trees
Author: Kathryn Harrison
Publisher: Fourth Estate, 1995
ISBN 1857024079
Genre: Historical Fiction

Rating 4.5 Crowns

On March 26th, 1662 two little girls were born.

One was a princess: the granddaughter of kings and niece of Charles II of England and the Sun King, Louis XIV of France. Pampered and adored she would spend her young years at the liberal minded and pleasure loving court of France. At the age of 18 she would leave France forever and travel to Spain to become a wife and Queen and on the way "she is forced to abandon the cumbersome orange trees brought from home and leave them to wither in the Pyrennees" - a story that is symbolic of the loss of her childhood and presaging her lonely future at the formal and repressive Spanish court.
At Quintanapalla she marries Charles II of Spain, a young man physically, mentally and emotionally suffering the awful defects of royal inbreeding.

Quintanapalla is the birthplace of the second little girl, the fictional Francisca de Luarca, the daughter of an impoverished silkworm farmer. After a tragic and forbidden love affair she is arrested by the Inquisition and it's from her prison cell she dreams of the young Queen and the author weaves together the threads of the lives of  two women powerless to control their destiny.

In between there are wonderfully evocative accounts of silkworms and the art of silk weaving, the heartbreaking tale of the little lovebirds of Paris...... and, like a black cloud hanging overhead, the horrors of the Spanish Inquisition with its barbaric cruelty and tortures.

I don't think I've ever read a novel of such emotional intensity . Kathryn Harrison's writing is powerful and beautiful and sweeps one page after page from the heights of passion to the depths of suffering and despair and every feeling that lies between.

I take every opportunity I can to spotlight A Thousand Orange Trees because it seems to be a book that slipped unnoticed under the radar. After I'd read and reviewed it last year I went looking for other opinions and could barely find it mentioned which I think is a great pity as I can't imagine any lover of historical fiction not loving it as much as I did.

Spellbinding and compelling reading!

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1 comment:

Carol N Wong said...

Wow, this book sounds so good. I was going to buy because of your review but it is not available. Will try the library.