Wednesday, 8 December 2010
The orchid house (Allfrey)
Having had a bit of a drought of VMC acquisitions lately, due to cutting down on expenditure, it was a big treat to go to the Notting Hill books and comics exchange to sell some books, and to spend the credit gained on some new ones! Of course, I cleared them out of the VMCs that I didn't already have (you can see them in the stack of books I came home with on my other blog), and one of the ones that I came home with was The orchid house by Phyllis Shand Allfrey. It's her only VMC, and not one that I had heard of.
In this sub-zero weather here in Oxford, it was wonderful to read a book set on the Isle of Dominica in the West Indies. It tells the stories of three sisters, growing up, through the eyes of their nurse, Lally. We first meet them as children, later as adults, returning to the island after being away.
Whilst I enjoyed reading it, I wasn't sure how well it held together as a book. The stories of the sisters were more disparate than coherent story, and I wasn't quite convinced by the voice of the narrator - she seemed far more well written than you might imagine a servant of that position to be.
What I did like was the sense of place that came through - Allfrey grew up there, and it really showed in her descriptions. I loved reading about coconut milk to cool parched throats, and breadfruit - it was a long way from hot soup in an English winter.
It's just been published once by Virago, with the original green cover - the picture is from the channel 4 dramatisation which sadly doesn't seem to be available, which is a shame as it featured some fairly big names, and I think that this book would translate very well to the screen.