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The Orchid Thief
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Archive - Group Reads > The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession by Susan Orlean - May 2019

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CMT Moderator (cmtmoderator) | 47 comments Hello fellow True Crime readers! This discussion is about The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession by Susan Orlean, your discussion leader is Gem.
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Please note: If you have not finished reading the book spoilers are permitted in this discussion from the start.
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The Orchid Thief A True Story of Beauty and Obsession by Susan Orlean The Orchid Thief A True Story of Beauty and Obsession by Susan Orlean The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean The Orchid Thief A True Story of Beauty and Obsession by Susan Orlean The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean The Orchid Thief A True Story of Beauty and Obsession by Susan Orlean

Summary

The Orchid Thief is Susan Orlean’s tale of an amazing obsession. Determined to clone an endangered flower—the rare ghost orchid Polyrrhiza lindenii—a deeply eccentric and oddly attractive man named John Laroche leads Orlean on an unforgettable tour of America’s strange flower-selling subculture, through Florida’s swamps and beyond, along with the Seminoles who help him and the forces of justice who fight him. In the end, Orlean—and the reader—will have more respect for underdog determination and a powerful new definition of passion.


Maureen | 194 comments Hi everyone, I've decided to read this one as my May book - I'm a bit slow, so got a Kindle version and have started it early. It looks very interesting and not gruesome crime! I love orchids too. Happy reading everybody.
Mo in Kent, UK


Barbara K | 328 comments I just downloaded the kindle version last night also!


˜”*°•.˜”*°• Sheri  •°*”˜.•°*”˜ | 1545 comments Mod
I’ve just started it and it’s a little slow right now but I’m sure it will pick up. Mr. Laroche is a curious fellow for sure.


message 5: by Gem , Moderator & Admin (new) - rated it 3 stars

Gem  Paullin | 1286 comments Mod
Hi folks, I'm Gem and will be leading this discussion. I'm going to finish Zodiac first, then I'll be over here to chat.


message 6: by Gem , Moderator & Admin (new) - rated it 3 stars

Gem  Paullin | 1286 comments Mod
I'm not too far into this book yet, but I am loving the trip down memory lane. I haven't been home in about five years... I miss South Florida.


Barbara K | 328 comments I've just started this; actually, I've only read the Prologue, in which I've learned that the book was the basis of a 2002 movie called Adaptation. The movie had a stellar cast, was extremely well reviewed and won several awards. I'd never heard of it, but that's probably because in 2002 I was in the throes of my own obsessive hobby at the time, which allowed me little time for movies or much of anything other than work. I noticed that it's available on Amazon Prime, so once I finish the book I will definitely watch the movie.


˜”*°•.˜”*°• Sheri  •°*”˜.•°*”˜ | 1545 comments Mod
when I think about all the orchid corsages I’ve had over the years I’m sorry I didn’t appreciate them more.


Maureen | 194 comments I'm amazed to find out that orchids can well outlive their owners.

I usually manage to get them to rebloom by leaving them to rest on a shady windowsill but I sometimes throw them away when they look really straggly and unattractive. I've caught the bug now and bought a second orchid - both orchids are now in flower in my living room. I must try not to get obsessed as I don't really have room for any more!!


˜”*°•.˜”*°• Sheri  •°*”˜.•°*”˜ | 1545 comments Mod
Maureen wrote: "I'm amazed to find out that orchids can well outlive their owners.

I usually manage to get them to rebloom by leaving them to rest on a shady windowsill but I sometimes throw them away when they l..."


I wasn't going to admit that I threw away an orchid that my sister gave me but since you did.....😊


Barbara K | 328 comments “I heard about a collector who had two greenhouses on top of his town house in Manhattan”. This reminded me that Nero Wolfe had a passion for orchids. I had forgotten all the detail about his rooftop greenhouse and how the rituals of caring for them permeated the whole series.


Maureen | 194 comments Sheri wrote: "I wasn't going to admit that I threw away an orchid that my sister gave me but since you did......"

I don't think I'll ever throw one away again - I've got much more respect for them now - they're much tougher than you think.


˜”*°•.˜”*°• Sheri  •°*”˜.•°*”˜ | 1545 comments Mod
Learning lots about orchids but can't say I'm a fan of this book.


Barbara K | 328 comments Sheri wrote: "Learning lots about orchids but can't say I'm a fan of this book."

It's impossible not to compare this with The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century, which I read last month. They are similar in that they explore contemporary crime built on Victorian era obsessions that have continued.

At about the halfway point in The Orchid Thief my impression is that The Feather Thief was far more entertaining and easier to read. Kirk Johnson seems to do a better job of interweaving the plot of the actual theft with the backstory of feather obsessions and the characters who inhabit the exotic-feather fly tying underground. Or maybe the crime at the heart of the book was just more interesting?

I'm not about to give up on The Orchid Thief; perhaps it ends with something as satisfying as Johnson's self-reflections at the conclusion of The Feather Thief. But it's become something of a slog reading Orlean's ramblings as she meets with orchid obsessives. I can't help wondering if this isn't the result of expanding what was probably a first rate magazine article into a full length book.


˜”*°•.˜”*°• Sheri  •°*”˜.•°*”˜ | 1545 comments Mod
Barbara wrote: "Sheri wrote: "Learning lots about orchids but can't say I'm a fan of this book."

It's impossible not to compare this with [book:The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist ..."


It does seem more like a magazine or research article than a novel. I keep thinking I'm sooooo glad I didn't try to audio this one.


Maureen | 194 comments Sheri wrote: "Learning lots about orchids but can't say I'm a fan of this book."

Yes, I agree with Sheri, I found the part about Victorian orchid collectors and Joseph Paxton at Chatsworth very interesting but I'm struggling with all the description of swamps in Florida and find myself skimming over those bits.


message 17: by Gem , Moderator & Admin (new) - rated it 3 stars

Gem  Paullin | 1286 comments Mod
I love the history and am enjoying that aspect of the book. The info about Florida can be flawed at times, it's just not what she gets herself worked up in describing. However, I thought this was a true crime book, not a history book. Since the few pages where she recounts the arrest (I'm over halfway done) we haven't heard much about the actual crime/court case, etc. She does describe getting to know LaRoache, but in spite of that I do think this book should have been entitled "The History of Orchid Collecting."


Barbara K | 328 comments ⊱✿Gem✿⊰ wrote: "I love the history and am enjoying that aspect of the book. The info about Florida can be flawed at times, it's just not what she gets herself worked up in describing. However, I thought this was a..."
Agreed. The book is billed as an examination of the obsessive nature of orchid collecting, and how that leads to crime, but I’m finding her recitations of details about the lives and homes and orchids of everyone she comes across to be self indulgent.

If the general concept intrigues you, please consider reading The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century. I really enjoyed that book! The author conveys the obsession, but never loses sight of the crime.


˜”*°•.˜”*°• Sheri  •°*”˜.•°*”˜ | 1545 comments Mod
When I think of true crime I think of kidnapping, murder, revenge, intrigue, sometimes horror. This is certainly a different take on the genre.


Barbara K | 328 comments The very last chapter was an improvement on most of the book, but still, I found it to be a disappointment. My short review doesn't say much beyond what I've noted above. There is such a thing as non-violent true crime, but this book is not a good representation.

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


message 21: by ˜”*°•.˜”*°• Sheri •°*”˜.•°*”˜, Moderator (last edited May 04, 2019 05:40PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

˜”*°•.˜”*°• Sheri  •°*”˜.•°*”˜ | 1545 comments Mod
Barbara wrote: "The very last chapter was an improvement on most of the book, but still, I found it to be a disappointment. My short review doesn't say much beyond what I've noted above. There is such a thing as n..."

Good review Barbara. I agree.
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

Looking forward to reading The Feather Thief.


message 22: by Gem , Moderator & Admin (new) - rated it 3 stars

Gem  Paullin | 1286 comments Mod
Barbara wrote: "⊱✿Gem✿⊰ wrote: "I love the history and am enjoying that aspect of the book. The info about Florida can be flawed at times, it's just not what she gets herself worked up in describing. However, I th..."

Barbara, in the May poll The Orchid Thief and The Feather Thief finished the with only one vote difference. So I elected to read the Feather Thief in June.


message 23: by Gem , Moderator & Admin (new) - rated it 3 stars

Gem  Paullin | 1286 comments Mod
Sheri wrote: "When I think of true crime I think of kidnapping, murder, revenge, intrigue, sometimes horror. This is certainly a different take on the genre."

I agree. I chose a couple of non-violent true crime books because I wanted something a bit lighter. I did get that.

I haven't changed how I feel about the book. For me it was a trip down memory lane, I used to go out into the Glades regularly, I know all the places described in the book. So in that aspect it was fun. And I enjoyed the history of the orchid collecting from Victorian Englands and the Seminole Indians (and yes, I've gambled in their casino, lol).

As far as this fitting into the true crime genre, I just didn't think there was enough information about the crime, the individuals involved or the court case for it to fit into the True Crime Genre.


message 24: by ˜”*°•.˜”*°• Sheri •°*”˜.•°*”˜, Moderator (last edited May 05, 2019 02:48PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

˜”*°•.˜”*°• Sheri  •°*”˜.•°*”˜ | 1545 comments Mod
I think that's my issue Gem. I kept waiting to hear a coroner say "murder by orchid" or for an orchid to pop up and say "feed me Seymour" 🌻

PS I don't regret reading it. I think the title is enticing and I would have always wondered.


Maureen | 194 comments I have to admit that I've given up with this book as it wasn't holding my interest. I've given it a 2-star rating (OK). Think I'll switch to Cozy crime for my June read - it'll be easier going - no more swamps for me!


message 26: by ˜”*°•.˜”*°• Sheri •°*”˜.•°*”˜, Moderator (last edited May 27, 2019 06:48AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

˜”*°•.˜”*°• Sheri  •°*”˜.•°*”˜ | 1545 comments Mod
Maureen wrote: "I have to admit that I've given up with this book as it wasn't holding my interest. I've given it a 2-star rating (OK). Think I'll switch to Cozy crime for my June read - it'll be easier going - no..."

Maureen, I gave this one 2 starts. Are you joining in any of the cozy reads here or are you doing your own thing?


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