The Orchard was a little unnerving at first. It looked like something that would interest me. A young woman during the Depression manages to keep her family’s farm by running it herself. I was assured by my sources that no one ever reads this for summer reading and I can see why. It is both long and about fruit. If I were in high school I would avoid it like a bag full of maggots. However, being quite dull myself and a fan of fruit – I found that I enjoyed it very much.
The story behind the way it was published was interesting to me. The daughter of the writer found the manuscript and had it published posthumously. (The daughter wasn’t dead yet when she had it published, of course, but the mother/writer was. Just want to be clear.)
The very beginning of the book had me worried. The daughter wrote the very earnest introduction and I read it. I know, I know – I keep telling people “For the love of all things holy – do not read introductions until after you have read the book!” And then I don’t take my own advice. So the tone of the introduction was a wee bit irritating to me. It seemed that the writer implied that, like an apple a day, this book was going to be good for me. I don’t want to be improved by a book, I just want to enjoy it. And so I pursed my lips and got ready to take my medicine. Luckily the book itself was not distasteful at all, but really interesting and surprisingly funny in parts.
There are very few characters in the book, mostly just Kitty, her dog, and the men who worked for and with her. When people start talking about the rhythm of a book, I begin to get nervous. But this book really had a good rhythm. It made me conscious of the seasons in a way that books never do. (Names, clothes and seasons in books never make an impression on me. Everything I read could be about naked people named John and Nancy and take place in a weather-free environment and I would barely notice.) And I learned more than I ever thought I would about growing apples.
I don’t read a lot of books about farming. But I read a ton of books about the Depression. I probably already mentioned some of them. One that reminded me a lot of The Orchard - in that it was about a person who has far better survival skills and useful knowledge that I have – is Hitch by Jeanette Ingold. It is the story of a boy who joins the civilian conservation corps in the 30s. It is a sequel and I look forward to reading more about this character. Also, I would be a bad librarian if I didn’t recommend The Grapes of Wrath. I loved it and it is an interesting look at what was happening on the other side of the country at the time The Orchard took place.
Speaking of weather – the next book up, Cat’s Cradle, is one in which I did notice the weather. And it is awesome! (Hope I am not giving anything away…)