Tuesday, 13 January 2015

A Rosy Review

The History, Romance and Adventure of Old Roses
Women in my Rose Garden by Ann Chapman

Broken backs and fingernails cannot normally keep gardeners in their armchairs. Some cold and dark winter days could force even that great gardener, Vita Sackville-West indoors. On just such a day, my green fingers turned the pages of Women in my Rose Garden by New Zealand author, Ann Chapman. French heroines abound. A local lady thinks of England. Even a family ancestor appears within its pages.

Curiosity got the better of Ann Chapman as she tended to her roses. That curiosity lasted 20 years as she researched the women behind their names. This gardener's labour of love bears the subtitle The History, Romance and Adventure of Old Roses. Women in my Rose Garden is a marvellous combination of historical biographies, horticultural detail and stunning photography. The book selects just 34 out of the 100 women researched.

History often neglects women. Roses bear their names in remembrance instead. Many of these "roses" influenced their times. They stand out for their bravery, intelligence or compassion. They were the pawns of their menfolk. Many married very young. They endured frequent pregnancies and the heartbreak of losing many of their children. You appreciate modern medicine and family planning after reading some of these biographies.

I confess that as a Francophile, I am biased... but the best biographies are French. Some figures are very familiar; others are relatively unknown. Fascinating details bring the  biography of each woman to life. An ancestral link (or family rumour) makes my favourite the Victorian heroine, Grace Darling.

The print production is worthy of a large coffee table book. There are portraits or photographs of the women in each biography.  The full colour photographs by Paul Starosta are outstanding.

Nur Mahal rose named after Indian Mughal empress
One of Paul Starosta's photos: a rose named after Indian Mughal empress, Nur Mahal.

Each rose also has a section devoted to horticultural information on parentage and breeders. At times, I felt this information was somewhat inconsistent in length. It needed more judicious editing and/or a larger type size.

I was disappointed that the publishers had taken a shortcut in final checking procedures. Women in my Rose Garden is perfect for revisiting and dipping into. However, the page numbers on the contents page do not always match up to the actual biographies. I hope that mine is just a rogue copy.

If Ann Chapman decides to write a follow-up using her remaining research, she will have an avid reader here. This is a beautiful and fascinating book. With so much French history, it deserves a quality French translation and print production.

Anglicity Limited - translation and content marketing services
Karen Andrews runs Anglicity Ltd.
She is an entrepreneurial French to 
English translator, versatile editor
and content writer. She writes on
technical and marketing subjects.
She is interested in the 
environment, as well as being 
a keen gardener and rose-lover.

Contact: karen@anglicity.com 
for further information.

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