melydia's Reviews > The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession

The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean
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Jan 09, 2009

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Recommended to melydia by: florafloraflora
Read in January, 2009 , read count: 1

When my pharmacist caught sight of this book, he asked if it was a thriller. That is one thing this book is not. It is, however, a slew of other things. Though it began more or less as Orlean's interest in the trial of one John Laroche, a Florida man caught poaching ghost orchids off park land with a trio of Seminole Indians, it rapidly blossomed into a full-scale investigation of the orchid-loving life. Evidently people go mad for these plants, sort of a "gotta catch 'em all" attitude for the floraphile set. And considering there are tens of thousands of orchid breeds, many costing hundreds or even thousands of dollars and meticulous care, it can become quite the costly and timely pursuit. Sound boring? Surprisingly, it isn't. Perhaps the most fascinating part for me was not the unexpectedly vehement passions of orchid enthusiasts, but rather Orlean's bald-faced judgementalism. It said a lot about her attitudes, and rather than being an impartial observer, she was clearly flabbergasted by the entire orchid culture - indeed, about any passion of that magnitude for anything. Without that air of "OMG look how weird this is" permeating throughout the story, this would have been rather dull. I didn't know the orchid world was so cutthroat, but after you've spent time with sports fanatics and anime fanboys, you realize that there are many things in this world that interest people far more than they do you, and nothing is too unusual to obsess over.
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