Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean

Susan Orlean's book is not merely about John Laroche, the Orchid Thief; it is a natural history of orchids, of the state of Florida, of Florida native peoples and of many other species of plants.

John Laroche is a foul mouthed, self proclaimed genius who is obsessed with orchids. We meet him at different times throughout the book and he grated on my nerves every time. Here is what I did not like about this book:
*She described every single piece of clothing that everyone she met was wearing. I don't know why that got on my nerves, but it did.
*All the legal stories and law talk bored me - especially Native American law, it's just not my thing.
*She felt she had to describe every sign and shop she drove by in Florida, again I think just the repetition of it just bugged me.
*The narration jumped around a lot - it didn't feel cohesive for me and I kept looking to make sure I hadn't skipped a page or something.

There was a lot that I did like:
*Not being a plant person in any way, I did like broadening my knowledge - I had no idea there was such a huge world out there of plant-obsessed people and the flower and plant talk did not bore me - I really enjoyed it.
*I liked reading about when Orlean went to flower shows - where there were lots of displays and colorful characters around.
*I really liked the Florida history lessons - these were engaging and always had an interesting personal element to them.
*I enjoyed her writing style, for the most part - I liked the words she chose and her self depreciating humor. I also admired her pluck - she went out on rides in cars with a lot of weird strangers and really put herself out there to get the full story (meeting international plant smugglers, and the like).

If you think this sort of thing interests you, then you should read it. I think I would've liked an abridged version better, but I'm still glad I read it.


bethany said...

I just got my copy from the library today...you know...I have been laboring on my chicken tractor. Fun stuff, but if I don't get reading I will be in BIG trouble, tons of books are pilling up now and I need to get to it!

I started reading your review, and read most of it, escept for the like and dislike section, I want to read it first and then read those sections on your review.I am going to start it tonight!

Melissa said...

I have to admit, I didn't notice the bit about describing what everyone was wearing... usually that really bugs me. I'd like to say I liked the book, but I think I'm still sticking with "weird with moments of brilliance." I do wish I cared more about orchids, though. Maybe I would have liked it better.

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