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The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession.pdf | Language: ENGLISH
    Susan Orlean(Author)

    Book details


Susan Orlean first met John Laroche when visiting Florida to write for the New Yorker about his arrest for stealing rare ghost orchids from a nature reserve. Fascinated both by Laroche and the world she uncovered of orchid collectors and growers, she stayed on, to write this magical exploration of obsession and the strange world both of the orchid obsessives and of Florida, that haunting and weird 'debatable land' of swamps and condos, retirement communities and real-estate scams.

The world of the orchid hunters, breeders and showmen, their rivalries, vendettas and crimes, smuggling, thefts and worse provide the backdrop to a fascinating exploration of one of the byways of human nature, the obsessive world of the collector, and the haunting beauty of the flowers themselves.

Orchidelirium is the name the Victorians gave to the flower madness that is for botanical collectors the equivalent of gold fever. Wealthy orchid fanatics of that era sent explorers (heavily armed, more to protect themselves against other orchid seekers than against hostile natives or wild animals) to unmapped territories in search of new varieties of Cattleya and Paphiopedilum. As knowledge of the family Orchidaceae grew to encompass the currently more than 60,000 species and over 100,000 hybrids, orchidelirium might have been expected to go the way of Dutch tulip mania. Yet, as journalist Susan Orlean found out, there still exists a vein of orchid madness strong enough to inspire larceny among collectors.

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Book details

  • PDF | 368 pages
  • Susan Orlean(Author)
  • Vintage; New Ed edition (4 May 2000)
  • English
  • 6
  • Home & Garden

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Review Text

  • By Jorn M. on 5 September 2016

    Read this book years ago, loved it so I bought it again

  • By ericmitford on 3 July 2011

    A decade ago, Deborah Moggach's 'Tulip Fever' and Anna Pavord's 'Tulip' were pipped to publication by 'The Orchid Thief'. Like 'Nathaniel's Nutmeg', 'Mauve' and a string of other subsequent books, all were recognisably part of the vogue pioneered by Dava Sobel's 'Longitude' for books taking as their starting-point a very specific topic and using it to inquire ever more widely into that topic's socio-historical context.Susan Orlean has this 'ripple' effect down to a fine art. A staffer on the 'New York Times', her attention was caught one day by the case against John Laroche, convicted by a Florida court of removing scores of rare orchids from the Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve. The plants were destined for the nursery run by Laroche in collaboration with the local Seminole tribe, where they were to be cloned and sold to collectors around the world. Yet Laroche turns out to be no petty crook: there are principles, albeit ones likely to lead to a profit, behind his crime. After two years of following this complex man around, Orlean concludes that Laroche is "the most moral amoral person I've ever known".So is 'The Orchid Thief' a biography? No; nor is it a travel book, though we learn much about the topography of southern Florida; nor again a botanical companion, though it is full of information about the varieties, breeding and collecting of orchids. But what Orlean does so successfully is to apply her journalist's instincts, and an easy way with words, to exploring deep into the psyche of the people whose lives are taken up, to the exclusion of almost everything else, with acquiring examples of some of the rarest and most beautiful plants on the planet.This is therefore a tale of possession and obsession. Susan Orlean takes us with her on a multi-faceted journey: into the swamps in search of orchids; into the quirky, backwoods culture of Florida's hinterland; into the history of orchids and of rare species collecting; and into the lives of present-day collectors and the bizarre world of orchid trade fairs.To enjoy this book, you need know nothing about exotic plants, or even be a keen gardener. You certainly don't need to have liked the film 'Adaption', in which a version of Orlean's character is played by Meryl Streep. I hated it!


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