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Karen Maitland
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Orchard - Larry Watson

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 art. Henry House is the jealous husband of the woman who will become Ned's greatest muse, Sonja, following a tragedy that has driven husband and wife in two different extremes of sorrow.<br/><br/>As I said this book could have been a simple tale of jealousy and love.They overflow bookshelves and flood the stores. However, Larry Watson has masterfully crafted a complex character study that examines sorrow and the motivations of the human heart. The book is told in alternating chapters from the viewpoint of each of Harriet, Ned, Henry, and Sonja, while a couple come from the view of the House's daughter June. These chapters also travel back in forth in time, though not a large gap exists between the three timeframes which slowly lay bare the events that lead to the denouement. In some books this could create a big mess and confusion, but Watson handles it skillfully. I especially love that the explosive conclusion to their shared story was woven into the book, urging the reader forward, rather than being revealed all at once.<br/><br/>My one complaint was that the book could have even shorter. The final pages served as an epilogue of sorts, showing the reader what happens to each of our protaganists. The two chapters dealing with Harriet and Ned were quite well done and in keeping with the book. However the other two, Henry's especially, felt trite and uninspired. As  these two were the last two chapters the have sullied my appreciation of this beautfully rendered novel just a touch, causing me to drop the rating a smidge. I highly recommend this stunning novel, and will definitely be reading more by Watson.