Griefwork

Griefwork

by James Hamilton-Paterson
     
 

Griefwork, James Hamilton-Paterson's third novel, was first published in 1993.

'This book had its genesis in a vivid dream about a Holland-like landscape of dykes which caused me to catch the next plane to Amsterdam. The story is set in the tropical palm house of a botanical garden - possibly in the Netherlands - just after the Second World War. Its single

Overview

Griefwork, James Hamilton-Paterson's third novel, was first published in 1993.

'This book had its genesis in a vivid dream about a Holland-like landscape of dykes which caused me to catch the next plane to Amsterdam. The story is set in the tropical palm house of a botanical garden - possibly in the Netherlands - just after the Second World War. Its single-minded and distinctly odd curator, Leon, has brought his precious ark of exotic plants safely through the war but is now struggling amid the snows of winter to keep its boilers going in fuel-starved Europe.' James Hamilton-Paterson

'Beautifully written. The author explores the tangled roots of his subject with brains and imagination, sustaining a tautness between Leon's affirmation of nature and the creeping truth that will expose its provisionality.' Observer

'Hamilton-Paterson's strange and compelling novel puts down enduring roots in the reader's mind.' Sunday Times

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Following his tropical tale of social chaos, Ghosts of Manila, Hamilton-Paterson's rather torpid new novel centers around a gardener's sealed-off hothouse paradise in a wintery, unnamed European city just after WWII. Leon, chief gardener of the Royal Botanical Society, has survived the war through a cloistered obstinacy, obsessively tending and communing with his 100-year-old banyans and tamarinds (which, in an odd touch, occasionally comment on the novel's action). In the unstable postwar milieu (the sort of place Hamilton-Paterson favors in his fiction), Leon's life and greenhouse are complicated by his director's idea of progress, his mute refugee assistant and a princess from the Far East who is as artificial a transplant as any here. Although the author's morally seedy landscape of shifty politics and individual despair echoes that of that of Graham Greene's The Third Man, his storytelling and characters lack the intensity necessary to cultivate tragedy. Instead, he creates a lush but ersatz atmosphere of sensuous details and mixed emotions, with botany serving both as parallel and counterpoint to European civilization's decline in the American century. (Sept.)
Library Journal
In a northern European city at the close of World War II, a greenhouse flourishes, kept alive through bombardment and occupation by a dedicated if eccentric gardener named Leon. The Palm House (as it is called) is Leon's whole world-"I don't want to see the real tropics," he confides to his plants-a place he retreated to long ago when his true love proved unobtainable. But the end of the war brings changes that destroy his little world: the Royal Botanic Society, which maintains the Palm House, may be forced to sell it off; an exotic Asian princess exhorts Leon to come work for her in the "real tropics"; and Leon has wrecklessly opened his heart to a Gypsy boy he rescued from a mob. The real world thus intrudes on Leon's artificially maintained privacy, and the glass ceiling comes crashing down. Hamilton-Paterson (Ghost of Manila, LJ 10/1/94) pads out this intriguing little idea with endless rhapsodic writing, some rich and rewarding (having the plants talk actually works rather well), some so overblown that even a neophyte writer would blush. The Gypsy's final betrayal creates some real tension in an otherwise slack plot, but it seems grafted onto the novel. For larger collections.-Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal"

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780224037174
Publisher:
Random House Adult Trade Publishing Group
Publication date:
04/27/1993
Pages:
250

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Meet the Author

James Hamilton-Paterson is the author of the bestselling Empire of the Clouds, which was hailed as a classic account of the golden age of British aviation. He won a Whitbread Prize for his first novel, Gerontius, and among his many other celebrated books are Seven-Tenths, one of the finest books written in recent times about the oceans, the satirical trilogy that began with Cooking with Fernet Branca, and the autobiographical Playing With Water. Born and educated in England, he has lived in the Philippines and Italy and now makes his home in Austria.

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