Chasing the Rose: An Adventure in the Venetian Countryside

Chasing the Rose: An Adventure in the Venetian Countryside

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by Andrea Di Robilant
     
 

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From the author of the best-selling A Venetian Affair, here is the charming chronicle of his search for the identity of a mysterious old rose. Andrea di Robilant’s tale takes us back to the time of Josephine Bonaparte, as well as into some of the most delightful rose gardens in Italy today, brought to colorful life on the page in the watercolors of artistSee more details below

Overview

From the author of the best-selling A Venetian Affair, here is the charming chronicle of his search for the identity of a mysterious old rose. Andrea di Robilant’s tale takes us back to the time of Josephine Bonaparte, as well as into some of the most delightful rose gardens in Italy today, brought to colorful life on the page in the watercolors of artist Nina Fuga.
 
In his 2008 biography of the Venetian lady Lucia Mocenigo (his great-great-great-great- grandmother), di Robilant described a pink rose that grows wild on the family’s former country estate, mentioning its light peach-and-raspberry scent. This passing detail led to an invitation for an audience with a local rose doyenne, Eleonora Garlant. She and other experts wondered if di Robilant’s unnamed rose could possibly be one of the long-lost China varieties that nineteenth-century European growers had cultivated but which have since disappeared. On the hunt for the identity of his anonymous yet quietly distinctive rose, Di Robilant finds himself captivated by roseophiles through time––from Lucia and her friend Josephine Bonaparte to the gifted Eleonora, whose garden of nearly fifteen hundred varieties of old roses is one of the most significant in Europe––and by the roses themselves, each of which has a tale to tell.

What starts out as a lighthearted quest becomes a meaningful journey as di Robilant contemplates the enduring beauty of what is passed down to us in a rose, through both the generosity of nature and the cultivating hand of human beings, who for centuries have embraced and extended the life of this mysterious flower.


From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
12/02/2013
Di Robilant takes readers on a gentle meander in this memoir inspired by a rose he discovered while researching the biography of his great-great-great-great-grandmother, Lucia Mocenigo, a friend of Josephine Bonaparte, which became A Venetian Affair (2003). Although di Robilant’s family had not been connected to the small town of Alvisopoli in the Venetian countryside for 100 years, he was curious about the town and set out to see it for himself. On a visit, a caretaker showed him a fragrant, silvery pink rose the locals called rosa moceniga, but no one had been able to identify its origins. Of course, for a writer and historical researcher, that’s a delicious challenge. Di Robilant researches the history of the rose in France and Italy in search of this special rose’s beginnings. Along the way, he meets a variety of eccentrics, such as Eleonora Garlant and her garden of 1,500 roses (and growing). He also learns the anecdotes behind many of the named roses, including the Baltimore Belle, named for Elizabeth Patterson, who married Napoleon’s younger brother Jérome; and the Catherine de Württembeg, the woman Napoleon forced Jérome to marry. History and anecdote abound on this entertaining journey with di Robilant on his quest to get the rose officially named by the American Rose Society. (Apr)
From the Publisher
"The hero of this tale is a nameless Chinese rose growing in Italy. The plot—part mystery, part quest—seeks to uncover its identity. The supporting characters—among them Empress Josephine—are an array of passionate, endearing breeders and collectors. The result is a delightful hybrid of history and horticulture that traces a single flower's journey halfway across the world. Di Robilant reveals that a rose is not only a rose, but an enigma whose beauty both roots us to the past and springs eternal."—Jhumpa Lahiri

"Reading Chasing the Rose is like taking a walk through a beautiful park. Together with the pleasure of the walk itself, you realize slowly that you are taking in the beauty and the fragrance of the plantings and their clever arrangement. You are being led gently by a knowledgeable and discreet guide who wears his learning lightly and manages to make this search for a flower into much more: the pursuit of beauty in life, a slice of history, the exploration of a subculture and of self-discovery."
—Alexander Stille

"Illustrated throughout with charming watercolors, Di Robilant’s is a unique exploration of how human history often leaves its imprint in the most unexpected of places.
A quiet country pleasure."—Kirkus Reviews

"Fear not—let your eyes glaze over through the Latin-studded rose begats—and glean the tantalizing and titillating bits of history behind them that you won’t find in any school books."—Richard Frisbee, New York Journal of Books

"Di Robilant takes readers on a gentle meander in this memoir inspired by a rose he discovered while researching the biography of his great-great-great-great-grandmother, Lucia Mocenigo, a friend of Josephine Bonaparte, which became A Venetian Affair (2003)... History and anecdote abound on this entertaining journey with di Robilant on his quest to get the rose officially named by the American Rose Society."—Publishers Weekly

"Di Robilant's quest leads him to Josephine Bonaparte's rose gardens, the China trade, rose smuggling during the Napoleonic wars, the disappearance of "old roses" in the 19th century and their rediscovery in the 20th. He considers orphan roses, natural hybrids and the politics of registering and naming roses today. . . Written and illustrated in a style reminiscent of Peter Mayle's A Year in Provence, Chasing the Rose is a charming account of a modern obsession and its historical roots."—Pamela Toler, Shelf Awareness

Kirkus Reviews
2014-02-03
A historian's account of how he uncovered the identity of a mysterious wild rose growing on the old farming estate of an illustrious Venetian ancestor. When di Robilant (Irresistible North: From Venice to Greenland on the Trail of the Zen Brothers, 2011, etc.) visited the former home of his great-great-great-great-grandmother Lucia Mocenigo, it was solely to make connection with a part of his past. But then the caretaker showed him a magnificent silvery-pink rose. Its delicately fruity fragrance and noble carriage told the author that "this was an old rose of some importance"; yet no one knew where it had come from. Captivated by the mystery surrounding this flower, di Robilant began an investigation into its possible origins. Another chance encounter—this time with a diary Lucia kept during her stay at the court of Emperor Napoleon—suggested that the rose had come to Venice via his ancestor. At the time she lived in France, Paris was "in the throes of a mad love affair with roses." Lucia did not become a collector like her friend the former Empress Josephine, but she did develop an interest in botany and brought home a variety of different roses. Di Robilant was fairly certain that the "rosa moceniga" was among them; however, he had no conclusive proof. His journey took him to historical archives in Paris and brought him into contact with rose collectors and specialists, from whom the author learned about individual rose species and the often colorful histories behind them. Yet it would be happy accident—this time in an Umbrian garden full of old Chinese roses—that would lead him to the answers he sought about the "rosa moceniga." Illustrated throughout with charming watercolors, Di Robilant's is a unique exploration of how human history often leaves its imprint in the most unexpected of places. A quiet country pleasure.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307962935
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
05/06/2014
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
224
Sales rank:
411,758
File size:
7 MB

Meet the Author

Andrea di Robilant was born in Italy and educated at Columbia University, where he specialized in international affairs. He is the author of A Venetian Affair, Lucia: A Venetian Life in the Age of Napoleon, and Irresistible North: From Venice to Greenland on the Trail of the Zen Brothers. He lives in Rome.
 




From the Hardcover edition.

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