Whorticulture

Adult
Rated 3.90/5 based on 14 reviews
As a girl waits for the return of her disappeared father, the story of four migrant women in antebellum America unravels.Peopled by whores, tricksters, gamblers, do-gooders, liars, and fools, and with allusions to the coded language of flowers, Whorticulture is about prostitution in its myriad forms. Contains a helpful discussion guide for book groups and a flower dictionary. More

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About Marie-Anne Mancio

Marie-Anne Mancio trained as an artist in performative practice at Manchester Metropolitan University prior to undertaking her D. Phil Maps for Wayward Performers: feminist readings of contemporary live art practice in Britain, University of Sussex, and a subsequent M.Phil in Creative Writing at Glasgow University for which she was awarded a Distinction.
Her fiction deploys historic metaphor to comment on the present and to explore the impact of site on identities, latterly through Whorticulture, a short novel about four migrant women in antebellum America. She is represented by Lesley Thorne at Aitken Alexander Associates Ltd.
http://www.aitkenalexander.co.uk/.
Marie-Anne's art practice is primarily text based and recent works include Pocket Bible (2011) created for New York artist duo Praxis & James Franco's Museum of Non-Visible Art (MONA). In 2009, a Diffusion writer's residency with British creative think-tank Proboscis inaugurated their bookleteer publications for which she created An A-Z of The Ting: Theatre of Mistakes (2009), a set of 16 e-books based on this 1970s performance collective’s private archive and from original research conducted by herself and curator Jason E Bowman.
Marie-Anne is also a freelance lecturer in critical theory and art history and has written for various publications including Live Art Magazine, Make, Art and Design, RealTime, The Soho Clarion, Europaconcorsi, and The Independent on Sunday.

Reviews

Review by: Lauren Johnson on Dec. 04, 2012 :
Note: I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

These four nineteenth century American short stories are compelling. The stories are linked by each woman’s will to survive and their will to do whatever they have to. There is a great deal of research that had gone into creating these stories and the women’s lives. The stories are informative and vivid. The only problem I had with these stories is that they needed a long introduction into the women’s back-stories that slows the pace down.
(reviewed within a month of purchase)

Review by: Tracey on Oct. 06, 2012 :
This is a very unusual book. I won it through LibraryThing’s Member Giveaway in exchange for a review; otherwise I’m not sure I would have finished it. Yet in the end I’m glad I did finish it.

The title is just what it appears to be, a play on “whore” and “horticulture”. (I’m sure there’s a word for that; conflation?) For the first part: The lives of four young women of antebellum America are highlighted, and through them the expectations and limitations of women in the time period. Four young women begin as innocents, with their own ideas of what life will be like; four young women wind up with their innocence shattered, their expectations crumpled. Life acts on these girls – rarely do any of them have the chance to take action to change their own circumstances, and when they do make the attempt it tends not to work out well for them. This is not a book of erotica, much less a romance novel – there are some scenes which border on the graphic but nothing to compare to most of what’s out there. It is more than anything a sociological study of the circumstances leading up to different forms of prostitution – by its legal definition as well as circumstantial – through four (five, in a way) separate but intersecting stories. The young bride solidly and terribly under her husband’s thumb and the young woman attempting to build a business and maintain an illicit love affair are not much better off than the actual prostitutes – “owned”, in a way, by their madams. This is one of those books which scours away all the little wishful 21st century fantasies of a simpler life in a simpler time; this is one of those books which leaves all the Happily-Ever-After endings looking kind of silly and impossible

For the second part of the title: Throughout the book is woven the language of flowers, and language relating to flowers and plants. This was obviously done very deliberately, but the intention was not so obtrusive as to be annoying.

In some ways it is not an easy read. It’s set in the present tense, which can be off-putting. And the subject matter is difficult. I don’t think it will ruin anyone’s reading experience (and might serve as fair warning) to say that the closest thing to a happy ending in this book is not very happy at all. No one is entirely good in these stories, and no one is entirely happy, even at their happiest – misery runs thick and heavy for these women. Innocence is largely a matter of ignorance, and the ignorance is massive, though short-lived. It’s fascinating to see how these girls’ lives spiral downward, and disheartening. There is a spirit and a sense of humor to the points of view which both makes it easier and makes it harder to watch. This is a book after which I didn’t much like anyone, but particularly men, and after which I probably should have reached for Winnie-the-Pooh or something equally antidotal.
(reviewed long after purchase)

Review by: Michele Ward on July 29, 2012 : (no rating)
I really enjoyed how this book looked at the plights of women in that time period but I found it a little confusing at the end. I know that it came together and the stories were intertwined but it seemed to just... end. I will definitely read more from this author because the style of writing was great.
(reviewed long after purchase)

Review by: Krista Ruthstrom on July 25, 2012 :
I really enjoyed this book. It was well written and I enjoyed the way the stories were entertwined. Definitely look forward to more by this author.
(reviewed long after purchase)

Review by: Jenny Barratt on July 23, 2012 :
No Plot spoilers here!
I just re-read this book after it was gifted to me a while back when I said I liked The Crimson Petal and the White. This isn't a tome. It has intriguing questions though. I enjoyed it even more the second time round cos small things fall into place. Everything is so well described you feel you are there in the 19th century.
(reviewed the day of purchase)

Review by: Alan Scarff on July 22, 2012 : (no rating)
Marie-Anne Mancio has plunged us into the low life of antebellum America of the late 19th century. She has created four well drawn female characters who are forced through circumstance to make a crucial life changing decision.
Katharine, a slim girl with a dreamy writer's imagination, is marked out from all around her by her height and her red hair. She is taken by her uncle to New Orleans to "get and education". She learns a lot but it's not the kind of education her family were expecting!
Abigail, another slim girl with "bony arms and legs" is a determined girl who battles to build a successful hat business in a two-bit town. When her lover, the preacher and thief who we met in Katharine's story, absconds with the bank's money and the business burns down, she embarks on a long boat journey and en route settles angrily for a safe marriage.
Seraphine is probably the least sympathetic character of the four girls. She cynically believes the almost-true assertion that white people are constantly "conratulating
themselves on their own generosity". Seraphine lies and deceives her way through life and by the end of her story she'll have a big surprise for the reader.
Emily loses her voice and her father's love when her voice braks and she can no longer hit the high notes. She embarks on a violently unsuccessful and barren marriage to a French Creole and after a hellish few years with himn she finally, with the help of her maidservant, manages to get shot of him.
Whorticulture is an excellent novel that is littered with unfaithful men who appear to think with their groin and they link all of the girl's stories but the reader should remember that prostitutes, like policemen, only come into contact with a certain section of society. The characters seem to be in the kind of hell that Sartre wrote about in his play No Way Out.
Having travelled across America I know that racism still exists over there so this is timely reminder of what it once was like in the States and may be bubbling under the surface.
Author Marie-Anne Mancio has researched this book incredibly well and the way she pluralises the scene in Cincinatti when Katharine arrives effectively evokes a bustling, crowded city. Also her command of simile is superb; they are powerful but not overblown and are always relative to the text. When Seraphine and her sister Arlene are hoodwinking the brothel madam the deceit was as "smart as a steel trap" this simile conveyed their ruthlessness.
On a lighter note when Katharine meets the green eyed Uncle Meredith she feels it's like "the first day of spring in a meadow" this simile looks forward to her love affair with him and contrasts with the dusty filth of her hard working family.
I enjoyed this short novel very much because it was so well written and thought provoking.
(reviewed long after purchase)

Review by: norma peruzzotti on July 15, 2012 :
This is s different book.It´s from the women perspective, and denotes a deep understanding of the historical situation of the characters which means that the author has made a thorough research.
The subjects that are touched are really hard and the characters show strong personalities and that, in a lot of different ways, women had been subject to prostitution through all the classes and the times ñ and had evolved from it sometimes to a higher level and others to a totally different life.
Well writen, easy to read, interesting, human and loving.IT´S A GOOD READ!!!
(reviewed within a month of purchase)

Review by: Kimberly Vassel on July 14, 2012 :
This book was a quick read and I really liked how the different stories were connected by some of the characters. Each of the women endured hardships, despite some having better social situations than others. Yet, they proved to be strong and were able to change their circumstances through whatever means necessary in order to survive. I'm glad I received this from LibraryThing's Members Giveaway for review. Thanks!
(reviewed within a month of purchase)

Review by: rainbowsong1 on July 13, 2012 : (no rating)
I loved this book. I want to see more from this writer. She brings to light the history of what some women had to endure during this period. Well, not just this period but thru out time. Women have either been property or prostitutes.Good job!
(reviewed within a month of purchase)

Review by: sereq on July 12, 2012 :
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher/author through the LibraryThing.com Members Giveaway program. I was asked to post an honest review (though not necessarily a favourable one). The opinions expressed are strictly my own.

This is a collection of 4 short stories of women in pre-bellum USA, connected by recurring male figures and the language of flowers.

It is quite short and I think that the female characters are quite sketchy and, while obviously downtrodden and all that jazz, they do not seem overly sympathetic. Also there isn't a single positive male character in the whole story.
Moreover, the language of flowers does not play a very significant part, except in the subtitle of the individual stories, where the bouquets that represent the characters are decribed. The meanings of the various flowers are explained in an addendum at the end of the book, but it still feels too little.

While this book is obviously well-written and researched, it didn't take me.

Maybe I'm too much of a sappy romantic to really appreciate it.
(reviewed within a month of purchase)

Review by: Australwind on June 27, 2012 :
Whorticulture was an intriguing title and as I have read quite extensively on the history of prostitution in the UK and Australia, I was interested to read something from an American perspective. I received this as a review title through LibraryThing.

As a collection of interlaced short stories, this didn't disappoint, however I wasn't all that sure that the language of flowers played as strong a role as it may have.

The collection certainly highlighted the plight of women in this particular age and location. To be regarded as little more than goods and chattels to be acquired, traded and abused was not unique to America nor this period in social history but the added frisson created with the issue of slavery and the community pressures brought about by the effects of the discovery of gold gave the stories a particular regional feel.
(reviewed within a week of purchase)

Review by: Tona Cruz Dominguez on June 25, 2012 : (no rating)
This was an amazing take on woman during the antebellum period. Each one of these stories features a woman in a completely different social level. While neither of these women are in same situation each one has persevered and has done whatever it took to survive.

I think that this book is something every woman should read. It made me feel a sense of pride knowing that these women who were broken down, fought hard to rise again.
(reviewed within a week of purchase)

Review by: Kelli Flores on June 21, 2012 :
I took a bit of a risk requesting this book - it was part of the Early Reviewer's program - but the description intrigued me as it did not really seem to be about whores. It does push and question the fine line between being a respectable women (or not) in antebellum USA.

Specifically, during that time but also in a more general sense, this book explores different arrangements women have made with men to survive, find protection, or break away. Some of these involve marriage - can a woman be a whore when she only has relations with her husband? Other stories involve women in brothels in various occupations, or women looking for husbands. The common thread among the stories are the men, who have more mobility and choices than many of the women - however, these are not dainty damsels waiting to be rescued.

I really enjoyed some of the questions that were raised. I think this book could also be used as an additional book for college classes in the history of women, the social evolution of women, or other similar topics.

But I also enjoyed the stories in and of themselves. An explanation of the author's intention was at the end of the book, which could be a problem for those who read e-books. Overall, I liked the book.
(reviewed within a week of purchase)

Review by: Britt Oosterlee on June 21, 2012 :
Really loved this book! A surprise, I must admit; I was a bit hesitant since it's, well, about whores, and I was a bit scared it might turn into cheap porn, but it was nothing like that.
The book tells the stories of women, who all find themselves in situations they weren't prepared for, and have to make difficult choices. Not all of them are actually whores, but two have unconventional relationships, one is indeed a whore, and the fourth is a different story altogether... All women are connected through the men they are with.
It's well written, and I really got drawn into the stories. The stories give you something to think about, and give a diverse view of life in the times of slavery and the gold rush.

Though one of the things that the 'whores' say is that all men are bad, one thing I found is that it's not that simple. Though the men in the book do have their bad sides, it also shows that they aren't only bad, they also have good sides. And the same counts for the women: though these women might generally be thought to be 'bad' women, they all had difficult choices to make, and all have good sides as well as bad sides...

All in all a very enjoyable read; am looking forward to hearing more from this author.
(reviewed within a week of purchase)

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