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3.39  ·  Rating Details ·  462 Ratings  ·  69 Reviews
From the bestselling author of Montana 1948 comes the explosive story of an artist, his muse, and the staggering price they pay for their chance at immortality.

Sonja Skordahl, a Norwegian immigrant, came to America looking for a new life. Instead, she settled in Door County, Wisconsin, and married Henry House—only to find herself defined by her roles as wife and mother. D
Paperback, 256 pages
Published June 8th 2004 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published January 1st 2003)
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From the book jacket - Sonja Skordahl came to America from Norway looking for a new life. Instead, she settled in Door County, Wisconsin, and married Henry House – only to find herself defined by her roles as wife and mother. Destiny lands Sonja in the studio of Ned Weaver, an internationally acclaimed painter. There she becomes more than is model and more than a mere object of desire; she becomes the most inspiring muse Ned has ever known, much to the chagrin of the artist’s wife. When b
Dec 19, 2007 Jessica rated it did not like it
I read this book about a year ago, and I'm glad those dark days are behind me. I disliked every character in this book. "Please, please, kill each other off," I begged as I read. I won't give away the ending, but let's just say that I wished I could've grabbed that loaded gun myself and fired off a few rounds. I didn't even like the bar owner's sleazy wife (and I usually tend to like overtly lascivious characters -- at least they give books some color) nor did I like the couple's daughter, who w ...more
Aug 03, 2014 Elizabeth rated it liked it
Melancholic and sorrowful novel about grief, art, and the arc of a marriage.
May 09, 2012 Ellen rated it liked it
An immensely talented artist who has a series of affairs with his models happens upon a young woman who becomes his muse. Given his huge ego, I'm not sure if it would be accurate to say that he loves Sonja, but she certainly has a hold on him. Sonja is an unhappy wife and mother. She and her husband have lost a son in a tragic accident and their daughter suffers along with them. Sonja accepts the modeling job as a way of finding herself again, but it leads to her husband's jealousy and much bigg ...more
Feb 19, 2014 Sheri rated it really liked it
This is the third of Watson's books that I've read and I was slightly disappointed. It is not as good as either American Boy or Montana 1948. It is dark and slightly creepy and Watson yet again displays a nice grasp for narcissistic desires in his characters, but it felt somewhat rushed (maybe too short?) compared to the other works.

I really did not like the temporal wandering. Watson almost produces stream of consciousness writing with his wanderings and lack of chapters. The novel begins with
Jul 22, 2008 Marian rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
Orchard takes place in Door County WI. It is the story largely of Henry and Ned. Henry is an orchard owner in love with his wife Sonja and they are suffering through the death of their son while trying to raise their daughter June. Ned is a contemptible but overtly talented artist who abuses those around him at will, including his perpetually victimized (though inherently complicit) wife Harriet. Ned hires Sonja to pose for him, and she does at length --- testing her marriage and to the author's ...more
Laura Edwards
Jun 28, 2016 Laura Edwards rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Boy, what a disappointment. I was very intrigued by the setting, Door County, WI, but it rarely factored into the story aside from the apple orchard.

Every once in a while a passage came off as too blunt or graphic and didn't really fit in with the tone for the rest of the book. I had no sympathy or respect for Ned or Henry and no respect for Harriet, either. Hard to like a book when you can't really stand 3/4 of the main characters. And June's thought process was far too complex for a six-year-
Mar 08, 2013 Elizabeth rated it really liked it
Somewhat interesting, but it felt so ultra-manly, if that makes sense. I wonder what the author is like. There was an awful lot of unnecessary sex--and I'm usually fine with that, but it seemed just to prove a point or something. Also, I thought the artist character was so obnoxious with his "I'm doing everything for art" thing--does he represent the author? The book acknowledges that he's not a lovely guy, but it doesn't particularly denounce the "everything for art" line. And would his wife re ...more
Jul 28, 2008 Stephanie rated it it was ok
Shelves: adult-fiction
I am always hopeful when I get one of his books, but they do not have the simple power of Montana 1948.
Sep 25, 2016 Anne rated it really liked it
Before I read this book I read some of the reviews and almost didn't read it. I'm glad I trusted my judgment. to give it a try. It's not a happy book but it does an excellent job of looking at how things can go wrong in a marriage or other relationship. Watson describes a tragedy in the lives of. Henry and Sonia and demonstrates just how failing to listen, failing to communicate within a marriage can fail the marriage. The artist, his wife, are bit players who make it easier for Henry and Sonjja ...more
Jan 14, 2015 Sara rated it really liked it
Orchard tells a story that at first glance, seems to be a simple taleof love, jealousy, and obsession but it is one of those books in which the sum is greater than its parts. In this book we are introduced to Ned Weaver, an acclaimed artist who is almost as famous for his dalliances with his models as for his paintings. He is married to Harriet, who was at one time his model, and has long since concluded that any suffering she experiences matters not at all in the face of the importance of his ...more
Sep 12, 2016 Anne rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 24, 2010 Jbsfaculty rated it really liked it
Shelves: bahe-selections
From Booklist:
This is a story of a talented but egotistic painter and the lives he touches in Door County, Wisconsin. When Sonia House, wife of an apple grower, agrees to pose for Ned Weaver, she unwittingly puts in motion a chain of events that leads to tragedy. Accustomed to having affairs with his models, the philandering Ned finds that his attraction to Sonia goes much deeper. Watson vividly captures the special self-centeredness of the artist, whose "capacity for generosity, honesty, and wh
May 14, 2010 Frank added it
Thorough and completely satisfying! Every word, every turn of phrase is beautifully crafted to reveal the inner workings not only the souls of its characters, but also those and the deeper ringings of that of the reader. Larry Watson has written one of his very best with this one! There is a soothing and satisfying Americana to this novel. I felt a sympathetic vibration to what I felt during and after reading Kent Haruf's Plainsong, The Tie That Binds, and Where You Once Belonged.> John Stein ...more
Amy Krohn
Oct 22, 2014 Amy Krohn rated it really liked it
I had to read this one because it is about an artist and his model (my novella is also about an artist and a model), and it takes place in Wisconsin (I take place in Wisconsin, too!). I had read Montana, 1948 in college and appreciated the writing. Here, too, I appreciate the writing. It is complex and deep. There are too many sex scenes, too much coarse language. I did enjoy the character of Sonja. She is strong, but also not too perfect. The artist is "a piece of work," and I'll let it be at t ...more
Jun 18, 2010 Linda rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction-us
A meditation on art, the artist, and the muse, influenced or inspired by the story of Andrew Wyeth and his numerous paintings of his long-secret model Helga.

What is interesting in this case, is that the author considers what the woman model thinks, and suggests that Sonja finds something independent in the role which neither the artist nor her husband imagines, as each thinks he possesses her in some way.

I liked his description of the process of an artist looking, and going beyond the immediate
I read this book right when it came out. I was working in a bookstore at the time and as I was putting copies of it on the shelf the pretty cover caught my eye (the hardcover had a different cover than the paperback). I had never heard of the author, but the blurb sounded interesting enough so I started reading it while manning the checkout counter on a particularly slow night. Then I promptly forgot about it until just now when it came across someone else's goodreads page. I remember I didn't r ...more
Elizabeth Lee
This book was bleak. In summary, bad circumstances happen to not-bad people, who handle it poorly, and when faced with the consequences of handling it poorly, continue to sink into a cycle of bad behavior, rather than try to fix what's left of the relationships in their lives. Predictably, this does not end happily for anyone involved.

Why do people insist on adding more darkness and sadness to the world with their art?

This was written well, though, and if the author has written anything else wit
Listened to audiobook from Recorded Books.

Narrated By: George Guidall

Acclaimed writer Larry Watson, author of the best-selling Montana 1948 (RB# 94966) and winner of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, is at the peak of his storytelling powers with this searing portrait of obsession and betrayal. In Wisconsin during the 1950s, orchard keeper Henry is enraged when his wife Sonja poses nude for world-class painter Ned. As both men fight to possess Sonja, their jealousy threatens to explo
Chi Dubinski
May 24, 2012 Chi Dubinski rated it liked it
Ned Weaver is an internationally acclaimed painter living in Door county, and is famous for his affairs with models. His wife Harriet tolerates his behavior and manages his career. Sonja Skordahl came to American and married Henry House, an apple farmer. She becomes muse to Ned. Ned and Henry are at odds with each other. This book “explores the lives of four very different people bound together by beauty, art, obsession, and betrayal.” Watson has won many literary prizes including the Milkweed F ...more
Laura Planton
Oct 11, 2011 Laura Planton rated it it was ok
A very slow moving story. Sonja and Henry suffer the tragic loss of their son. Ned an obsessive artist solicits Sonja to be his model. Harriet, Ned's wife is well aware of past sexual attraction between Ned and his models. Henry suffers the humiliation of the townspeople knowing his wife is posing nude. A complicated story because of the chronology of the story, the difficult characterization and the implausibility of certain character's actions. I need at least one likable character in a story ...more
Aug 07, 2009 Marvin rated it liked it
Shelves: midwest
The same fine writing & sense of place as Montana 1948 set only slightly later (the 1950s) among the year-round residents of Door County, Wisconsin. The story--about a couple who own an apple orchard and who lose a child, after which the beautiful mother agrees to pose nude for a local artist of international renown--is less plausible (especially the ending) & less compelling. It's a story of love, grief, jealousy, art, & local color.
Patty Barnett
Oct 02, 2011 Patty Barnett rated it really liked it
This is a really good book, so different than anything else I have read in a very long time. Sonia's love and dependence on lead to marriage. Henry loves and adores Sonia. Complicated events bring Sonia, without Henry's knowledge, to pose for Ned, a famous artist. As the story progresses so do the relationships, especially those of Sonia, Henry, Ned and his muse and wife Harriet. As Sonia develops and strengthens, the others experience uncertainty, discomfort,anger and jealousy.
Jun 28, 2011 Linda rated it did not like it
I so believed these people were REAL that I stopped reading the book because of the total manipulation taking place between the 2 couples - the 4 individuals. It was so sad that the loss of the child kept impacting everything. I enjoyed the author in Montana 1948, but the Door County book was too much. And I could not locate any of the actual places in Door County - it was all fictional.
Aug 13, 2014 Ernest rated it did not like it
I disliked everyone in this novel. Hated is a better word. About page 100 I was hoping they would all meet at the highest point in the orchard under the tallest apple tree on a rainy day and be struck with a massive bolt of lightning...Even the peeping tom town folk and slutty bar maid. No, no a single bolt of lightning won't suffice. A meteor, yup, it will take a meteor.
Oct 09, 2007 Jeanne rated it really liked it
An egocentric artist finds as his latest model the beautiful wife of a local apple picker. The couple have recently lost a young son and are experiencing the usual confusion and grief. Will the marriage survive, or will the artist make yet another conquest? Or will the woman, objectified most of her life, decide to strike out on her own?

The prose is magnificent.
Kristin Bonacci
Jul 21, 2014 Kristin Bonacci rated it it was amazing
I was ready to not give my "Larry Watson automatic 5 stars" for this book. But then I read the end and, again, the ending was not what I had expected and much more powerful than I expected. So 5 stars.
Sep 03, 2008 Jude rated it it was ok
I don't think Larry Watson is as besotted with his guys as James Waller is with his transparent fictionalizations of himself, but a fine performance by George Guidall couldn't keep me listening, so i'll never know how well he actually does by his female characters.
Jul 11, 2008 Kate rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Mom, Lisa, people who like quick reads that aren't cheap and easy
Recommended to Kate by: Time Out New York
This is a beautifully quiet yet seething and agonizing book about the tension between what you know, what you think and what you think you know. It's the story of two people who grow apart, and two others who stay apart, while seeming to grow together.

I highly recommend this book!
Jul 22, 2007 Laura rated it liked it
I had a difficult time understanding the female characters, Harriet and Sonja. Sonja's motives are eventually revealed toward the end, but I couldn't understand why Harriet stayed with such an awful husband. The men seem overly sexed, which gets annoying fast.
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Larry Watson was born in 1947 in Rugby, North Dakota. He grew up in Bismarck, North Dakota, and was educated in its public schools. Larry married his high school sweetheart, Susan Gibbons, in 1967. He received his BA and MA from the University of North Dakota, his Ph.D. from the creative writing program at the University of Utah, and an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Ripon College. Watson ...more
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