Sunday, May 12, 2013
The Apothecary's Garden by Julie Bozza
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This was another Julie Bozza book I gradually, slowly, but inescapably fell in love with while reading. The beginning was a bit bumpy with its fairy-taleish "once upon a time, there was a man..." convoluted wordiness, but I got quickly drawn into the story AND into the beautiful, at times slightly old-fashioned-sounding and yet so very fitting prose. This author has a way to paint pictures with words, I couldn't help being awed.
In a word, I loved this book. It can’t hold a candle to my all-time favourite Julie Bozza book, Butterfly Hunter, but it comes close. Everything about it was just so up my alley– the garden, the slow pace, the sheer British-ness of both Hilary and Tom. And yes, even the much-belabored age difference...ok, 40+ years is huge, but considering who these two are, it became almost negligible.
Hilary is a man from a different generation; used to never being able to be open about his sexuality, he got accustomed to the thought of living and dying a loner. Being with someone at all was so novel to him he went about it with almost child-like joy, while at the same time, his maturity kept him from seizing the opportunity –read: Tom, and sex with Tom– by the collar first chance he got. Sweet, selfless, mature, thoughtful, that is Hilary, made shy and wary by life experience, but no coward. I don't think he would've reacted all that different if Tom had been closer to his age, though his age-gap induced self-doubts and misgivings–and how he deals with them– added greatly to this book’s charm for me.
Now Tom? A breath of fresh air, youth, beauty and strength and a supplement of muscle to Hilary’s comparable frailty; you’d think it’s Hilary who gets the most out of them being together. But for one, Tom is a nurturer at heart, he loves to care for things and people, he’s just as selfless and sweet as Hilary but of a youthful exuberance that he loves to channel into doing something useful, not waste in mindless pastimes. I don’t think he feels shut away with Hilary, especially given his ability to live in the now and seize the moment, however long it may last. For another, in his own way Tom is as much a man of Hilary’s generation as Hilary is himself. Tom is honorable, scholarly, a somewhat old-style gentleman, and in many ways, a shy person too, despite his laptop and ipad and his much more unrestricted approach at his own sexuality.
They just fit, their personalities match, why should the age difference be an insurmontable obstacle between them?
The writing, the way the story was told convinced me it wasn’t.
I had only two small niggles whith the book; one was a "huh?" moment within the story when Tom reacted totally without rhyme and reason, and completely out of the blue, with no viable explanation, and the other was Hilary’s relative sexual prowess. (but then again, people are different and Charlie Chaplin fathered a child at over eighty, so why shouldn’t Hilary be more steadfast in bed than other sexagenarians?)
What it comes down to it is, it’s a lovely, beautiful love story; I enjoyed it, and I hope many others will too, whether they can get over the age difference or not.
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