Roses by Leila Meacham
Unabridged, 18 hr. 1 min.
Random House Audio
Coleen Marlo (Narrator)
December 18, 2009
Genre: Historical Fiction, Family Saga
Source: Downloaded audio from my local library
“Spanning the 20th century, the story of Roses takes place in a small East Texas town against the backdrop of the powerful timber and cotton industries, industries controlled by the scions of the town's founding families. Cotton tycoon Mary Toliver and timber magnate Percy Warwick should have married but unwisely did not, and now must deal with the deceit, secrets, and tragedies of their choice and the loss of what might have been--not just for themselves but for their children, and children's children. With expert, unabashed, big-canvas storytelling, Roses covers a hundred years, three generations of Texans and the explosive combination of passion for work and longing for love..”
I had put off reading this book for a long time, despite all the glowing reviews I had seen from friends and the personal recommendations made to me. This was purely because of the length of the book – which is over 600 pages – and it sat on my shelf for probably a good year or so. When I found that my library had it on audio book, I decided that was the way to go and set off on this grand adventure. Let me tell you now – I loved every minute of it – even when I had tears in my eyes!
This is one of those multi-generational family saga novels – so there are a bunch of characters and a lot of time to cover. This novel runs from the very early days of the 1900’s – I want to say 1907? – up through the 1980’s. A lot happens during that time, both externally and internally within the family. While the story focuses primarily on what happens to these families – Warwicks, Tolivers, and DuMonts – we also see the bigger picture movements of the USA in terms of how it affects the families (Prohibition, WWI, WWI, Korean War etc). I can comfortably say that A LOT happens in these pages – and there are so many twists and turns!
This was an emotional read for me in so many ways. I am not typically an emotional reader, but you almost cannot avoid it in this book – something will hit you. There were times I was brought to tears (several in fact), times when I was so mad at what one of the character’s did, and other times (less so) where I was very happy. Because of the emotionality of this book, I put it down several times. Mary and Percy’s relationship really got to me. When there was something good that happened to them, I would put the book down for a day or two in order to savor the happy times, because I knew something would happen to them to tear it down (I mean, the back cover blurb tells right off that they don’t end up married). When something tragic happened (and a lot was tragic), I would again put the book down because it was just too much. It took me over a month to listen to 18 hours of this book because of all the times I put it down.
The characters were so well written and each was very distinct and different. I was in love with Percy Warwick throughout the entire novel. Even though he made mistakes like the rest of the cast (and like everyone else in life) he was a very good man – and handsome to boot! Mary at times frustrated me – often – but I can understand the desire to remain connected to your familial roots when they run as deep as the Tolivers.
Most of the first half of the novel is told through flashbacks primarily through the eyes of Mary and Percy, but you occasionally get treated to another viewpoint. The latter half of the book focuses on how the decisions made in the past (seen through the flashbacks) will affect the later generations – particularly Mary’s grand-niece, Rachel, and Percy’s grandson, Matthew. It was so atmospheric and there was some great dialogue. I also loved how the use of roses was tied through the story and was important to the history of these families. While the use of the roses might appear a little ridiculous, I thought that it was cool and would love it if my family used roses this way – although I would then have to stop liking pink roses!
The cover is GORGOUS (as are the other covers of her books).
The audio production was fantastic. The narrator had a great southern style manner of speaking and it really helped placing you square in the middle of plantation life. She brought the characters to life and gave each a distinct voice.
Author Leila Meacham also has written Tumbleweeds and the to-be-released prequel to Roses titled Somerset.
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