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Earthly Joys (2005)

Earthly Joys (2005)

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3.4 of 5 Votes: 4
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0743272528 (ISBN13: 9780743272520)

About book Earthly Joys (2005)

Although I normally read books quite quickly, I stretched out my reading of this one over a few days. The vividly portrayed Renaissance England setting, the complex, familiar characters, and the interesting, steady flow of the plot line made me want to stay in this story longer than I usually do with others.“Earthly Joys” is about John Tradescant, a gardener in the time of King James I. While other men entwine themselves in politics and charge eagerly off to war, John is content to nurture seedlings, discover new plants, and watch his beloved trees grow along with his life. John ends up becoming the loyal personal servant of George Villiers, the young and handsome Duke of Buckingham, and the king's favorite. As the years slip by, John sacrifices his family and his life for his master, viewing him at different times as a son, a brother, a friend, and a lover.I just loved this story! There was so much complexity, so many undercurrents, so many sub-plots. Though I have certainly heard more than a few complaints about the historical accuracy of Philippa Gregory's works, this one in particular, I found this to be a very well written book.First of all, the way that Gregory writes is just lovely. She captures everything so perfectly. Some authors write their books with a poetic beauty, some with a touch of appreciated humor, some with drama, some with characters you can't help loving, but Gregory seems to mix a bit of all these together into a writing style that just compels you to keep reading. I had to struggle to put the book down, or not read so quickly as I normally do, because despite wanting to savor this book, I also felt compelled to tear through it in one sitting.I read a review on the back cover of another of her books that said no one has mastered Renaissance England like Philippa Gregory. I don't know if I would go so far as to put her at the absolute top, but she has definitely mastered this setting. I just absolutely LOVE books that fully transport you to another time and place, and this book certainly succeeds with that.The only parts that I felt a lack of a setting were when John travels the world – to India, Asia, Russia, and France. Surprisingly, there is a very large lack of placement here. After being so sharply introduced to the sights and smells of England, it was a bit startling to suddenly be whisked off to another country – even if a similar one, such as France – and have no descriptions of a setting at all.In these scenes, the author focuses on John himself, his botany, and other things that are going on in the plot. But the scenery is left a mystery, something that I felt extremely odd, considering how good Gregory is at that.All of the characters in “Earthly Joys” and wonderful. John is a simple man, and yet, we see into his thoughts and actions so deeply that he becomes a complex, and essentially a very realistically ordinary, yet interesting man. The relationship between him and his wife was an extremely well written one, and though there was no great love story, Gregory combined fondness, duty, love, resentment, and guilt into a very believable marriage. George Villiers was another of my favorite characters. Or at least, another of the most well written characters – I hated him! Excessively arrogant, reckless, selfish, and – the reader is led to believe – a traitor and a murder.Something about this book that I was not expecting was how sexual it was. Gregory makes no attempt to hide all of the homosexual alliances, affairs, and romances going on at the time – in fact, she makes good use of them and even has John take a male lover as well.All of the characters, settings, politics, and events in this book were very well written. I am looking forward to reading Gregory's new book, due out in August.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story - the second novel featuring the Duke of Buckingham that I've read within a month! I found Gregory's prose easy to read, her assuredness in her historical detail very gratifying, and her protagonists - all of them - highly sympathetic (but most particularly John Tradescant the elder, the gardener and a man's man in every sense of the word). The battle scenes were sufficiently repulsive without being actually sickening. I've yet to find many novels about gay men (by women) that don't fall into the worst of the hoary old happy-ever-after romance patterns, and this was a refreshing change. I particularly loved the slow, careful development of John's character, as we begin to see how his apparently over-the-top sense of feudal loyalty is underpinned by unacknowledged sexual yearnings that lead inevitably to Buckingham's bed. Nothing really comes of John's passionate attachment to Buckingham (and passionate it is, even though he is profoundly disillusioned by Buckingham's character, and even wishes him dead by the end), except for three nights and a fair deal of heartache. But Gregory does not leave us depressed, giving us instead a second generation for hope and a fair death for our good friend John. Add to that some really interesting detail about botany (and botanical financial speculation!) that was just enough but not too much for this non-botanist. I have found here both a novel and a novelist I think I will return to.

Do You like book Earthly Joys (2005)?

A friend recommended this book to me even though I said I don't like Philippa Gregory's novels, so I reluctantly decided to give it a go. I am not a gardener either. My expectations were fairly low, though I enjoy reading about this period in English history so it did have some appeal. Well, I really enjoyed the book. I had never heard of John Tradescant before, so what a delight to read about the man and his fascinating story, well researched and presented. There is so much to the novel, history, garden design, botany, plant collection, travel, friendship and love. All in all, a very pleasant surprise for this reader, who really hated Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl.

This is Philippa Gregory’s 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. John’s 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.

I read the sequel first and this one second, but I still enjoyed this story very much, and having developed some foreknowledge of the characters didn't leave me feeling that I always knew what was coming, even if I did to a large degree - especially as I neared the end of the book. Still, given the do-over, I would read them in sequence, I think. My mom read Virgin Earth after I did, and she was interested to learn that there was a book that preceded it. I am a little wary of passing it on to her because there is some activity I think she may find objectionable and I am afraid it will ruin the story for her. Personally, I loved the tale, recognized "Tradescant" immediately because I love perennials and have multiple varieties of tradescantia (spiderwort) in my garden, and sympathized with John's wanderlust and his tendency to be a little bit awestruck by the vivacious and capricious duke. I know that the author is a learned historian, and I am curious how much of the Tradescant's lives were taken from the pages of history, and how much from Ms. Gregory's fertile imagination. I was FASCINATED by the description of the buying and selling of tulip bulbs in "the low counties" which could just as easily have been cattle futures on Wall Street - and it came to me that the Dutch may have had their hand in the development of the stock market (or "de Waal Straat") in New York City.I thoroughly enjoyed this read, it was completely satisfying, and I have not been disappointed by one of this author's books yet - so they are all on my "To read" list - unless I have already read them.

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