Rated 4.00/5 based on 11 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.
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.

Learn more about Marie-Anne Mancio


Elizabeth Barbarick reviewed on Nov. 11, 2014

Four women who have never met, or even know of each others existence, but yet they are all connected through one man. It takes place during antebellum period, which was a much different time period than today's time, so the subject matter wasn't as controversial as I once thought before opening the book.

You can tell that a lot of research and studying went into the making of this book which was full of detail and realistic scenarios that might have happened during this time period.

At first I was concerned that this book was going to be about nothing but whores, but it turned out to be so much more. Its about survival as a woman, and doing what they felt they had to, in order to get through life and make their life work.

The book categorizes men and other people into one large group, which I found a bit untrue and a bit jaded like. They go over how all men are bad people, and to me that is just over categorizing.

Overall I found the book to be accurate to the time period, entertaining, and dramatic to the point of intrigue, but not to the point of being over the top. I'd rate this book at 5/5.
(reviewed 3 years after purchase)
Lauren Johnson reviewed on Dec. 4, 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 24 days after purchase)
Tracey reviewed on Oct. 6, 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 4 months after purchase)
Michele Ward reviewed 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 37 days after purchase)
Krista Ruthstrom reviewed 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 33 days after purchase)
Jenny Barratt reviewed 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)
Alan Scarff reviewed 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 35 days after purchase)
norma peruzzotti reviewed 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 25 days after purchase)
Kimberly Vassel reviewed 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 22 days after purchase)
rainbowsong1 reviewed 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 24 days after purchase)
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