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The Apothecary's Garden
About the Author
I was born in England, and lived most of my life in Australia, before returning to the UK a few years ago; my dual nationality means that I am often a bit too cheeky, but will always apologise for it. I have been writing fiction for almost thirty years, mostly for the enjoyment of myself and my friends, but writing is my love and my vocation, so of course that’s where my dreams and ambitions are. In the meantime, technical writing helps to pay the mortgage, while I also have fun with web design, reading, watching movies and television, knitting, and imbibing espresso.
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I loved this book. You must understand, I am Hilary Kent. Well, almost. Actually, I'm only 58, my big brother is Hilary Kent. But straight. And married. With kids. Sigh. OK, the POINT is, that my greatest sadness in the m/m genre world is the absolute rule that no one over 40 is allowed to be in love, or sexy. Once you're over 50, you're a pathetic old queer with no life and no value to a story except to be a joke or a victim. (Sorry, ladies, I blame you for this.)
So, to repeat, I loved this book.
Such a British book, just as Hilary is such a British man. I know plenty of American gay men his age, and none of them have that reticent, self-abnegating, gentle spirit that makes Hilary someone I loved instantly. And, in my case, identified with from the first page. But this also makes him very sad, to me.
Hilary, at 65, was 21 when anti-sodomy laws were finally repealed in England in 1967. As a result, he has learned to live a gay life of such perfect discretion that he has given up on any idea of real happiness - he has settled, instead, for contentment. Alone his whole life, now retired to a little medieval tower house he inherited from a crackpot old cousin he didn't even know, he is content. But, like his crazy recluse cousin, Hilary has not cultivated his garden. He knows nothing about his garden or about the man who created it. Il n'a pas cultivé son jardin. He has not really lived his life. Sad, that.
Into this quiet, controlled life pops Tom, twenty-three, a graduate student in medieval archaeology at the local uni. He is studying gardens, and in particular Hilary's Kent's garden - overgrown after half a century of neglect. Apparently, a possibly gay Anglican priest name Thaddeus of Kent planted the garden as a medicinal laboratory 400 years earlier. And Tom is all over it.
And Tom is cute. And gay. And very out. He has lovely hands. (shiver) Hilary notices.
Absolutely nothing of consequence happens in this book. But, if you're like me, you are caught up from the first page, because you, too, fall in love with Tom. But what could possibly happen between a sixty-five-year-old pensioner and a grad student 42 years younger? Read it and find out. If this was the last m/m book I ever read, I would die happy.
If you like age gaps in romance this is a doozy. There are so many little gestures to love in this quiet romance. History, the garden, the discussion of love...
The writing is lyrical and comforting. It is a mellow book despite some of the internal drama. I would have loved if this book was told from the younger hero's point of view and not just Hilary's. There are just details that are missing because of a solo point of view.
They both are kind fine men and I am glad they found each other.
Oh, and I am so glad I did. Told in third person from Hilary's point of view, you get a wonderful sense of this gentle self-effacing man, who has lived a quiet and solitary life. He inherits a place in Wiltshire, and here he meets young Tom, who is more mature than his 23 years would have him seem. Tom tells Hilary about the history of the garden he has inherited, and that he would like to work on it as part of his thesis. Together they form a fast friendship, and while Hilary finds himself very much in love, he tries so very hard to keep it platonic. Others will not understand, and he does not want for Tom, his dear friend and love, to experience anything negative, that could diminish the candour and purity that is Toms light. Tom, however, pushes and prods, and argues for their love to be physical as well as emotional.
The writing style of this novel reflects Hilary's age. Not old fashioned per se, but very English, with manners and copious amounts of tea, and gentle fun, and quiet reflection. And a little mystery a la "Midsomer Murders".
I finished this with tears in my eyes, and a warm heart. Waited about 2 hours with the story and the cadence of Julie's writing floating in my head.......and went back to the beginning to read it again! Thank you Julie, for the gift of your wonderful writing, and imagination, and for this gentle and lovely tale.
Most recent customer reviews
For original review see The Prism Book Alliance Blog online
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I liked it and ...at the same time I ...don't know what to think about it.
The writing was beautiful.Read more