Other than books, one of my great passions is gardening and another is travel. Consequently it gives me enormous pleasure to be part of the launch celebrations for The Plant Hunter by T.L. Mogford. My huge thanks to Maddie at Welbeck for inviting me to participate. I’m delighted to share my review of The Plant Hunter today.
The Plant Hunter was published by Welbeck on 17th February 2022 and is available in all good bookshops and online including here.
The Plant Hunter
1867. King’s Road, Chelsea, is a sea of plant nurseries, catering to the Victorian obsession with rare and exotic flora. But each of the glossy emporiums is fuelled by the dangerous world of the plant hunters – daring adventurers sent into uncharted lands in search of untold wonders to grace England’s finest gardens.
Harry Compton is as far from a plant hunter as one could imagine – a salesman plucked from the obscurity of the nursery growing fields to become ‘the face that sold a thousand plants’.
But one small act of kindness sees him inherit a precious gift – a specimen of a fabled tree last heard of in The Travels of Marco Polo, and a map.
Seizing his chance for fame and fortune, Harry sets out to make his mark. But where there is wealth there is corruption, and soon Harry is fleeing England, rounding the Cape of Good Hope and sailing up the Yangtze alongside a young widow – both in pursuit of the plant that could transform both their lives forever.
My Review of The Plant Hunter
Harry Compton’s life is about to change.
Oh, I so enjoyed The Plant Hunter. It’s a cracking read that is part history, part travelogue, part romance, and part adventure all rolled into an engaging, exciting story that fizzes along so that I found myself gulping it down. I loved it.
The plot of The Plant Hunter is fast paced and superbly constructed with dramatic events that made me think of Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days and which would translate into a brilliant film or television series, not least because T.L. Mogford’s prose is so visual. Indeed, all the senses are catered for superbly as Harry travels from London to China, to the extent that the reader feels as if they have been on a journey with him. The skill with which T.L. Mogford enhances the experience of enjoying the book through exquisite descriptions, but without slowing the pace or ever being wordy is so impressive. I found myself as immersed in China as Harry becomes through his adventures. It’s the meticulous historical and geographical detail here that is so satisfyingly successful, making for a thrilling and convincing read.
The Plant Hunter is jam packed with vivid and engaging characters who illustrate all strata of society, class and personality. There are rogues and cowards, heroes and philanthropists, the humble and the arrogant so that all life is represented through the pages of the story. Harry is not without his flaws, sometimes behaving rashly or being quick to display a violent temper but that only serves to make him all the more engaging. I thought Clarissa was magnificent too. Constrained by her foreignness in China and her widowhood, she remains feisty, spirited and vivid, making her a real role model. I thoroughly enjoyed the frisson of attraction between her and Harry too.
Whilst The Plant Hunter was far more of a brilliant, rollicking adventure with well balanced peril and humour than I had anticipated, it also embodies some weighty themes that give even greater interest and depth. The role of nations in other countries, the morality of exploration and trade, corruption of leadership, crime and murder all simmer along too, so that this really is a narrative that has something for every kind of reader.
I finished The Plant Hunter feeling that I had learnt from its pages, that I had met the most wonderful cast of characters and that I had had the most fantastic time alongside Harry. It’s an absolute cracker of a book. Don’t miss it.
About T.L. Mogford
T.L. Mogford can trace his roots back to a line of famous horticulturalists – his great-uncle has an apple tree named after him. Before becoming an author, he worked as a journalist for Time Out and as a translator for the European Parliament. The Plant Hunter is his first historical novel.
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