Wednesday, 8 May 2019

#BlogTour Green Gold by Gabriel Hemery

Today it's a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour Green Gold: The Epic True Story of Victorian Plant Hunter John Jeffrey by Gabriel Hemery. It's a biographical story and it's also historical fiction, a story with blank spaces which Hemery has filled with the fictional emotions and experiences of a man who has earned his mention in the history books of botanical exploration and achievements.

About the Author
Gabriel Hemery is an author, tree photographer and forest scientist.

Books by Gabriel Hemery:
Green Gold: The Epic True Story of Victorian Plant Hunter John Jeffrey, is a fictional biography, combining meticulous research with the fictional narrative of Jeffrey's lost journals. Publishing with Unbound in spring 2019.

The New Sylvia: A Discourse of Forest & Orchard Trees for the Twenty First Century, was published to wide acclaim by Bloomsbury in 2014. Its 400 pages feature more than 100 tree species, accompanied by 200 specially commissioned pen and ink drawings made by Sarah Simblet. Its publication coincided with the 350th anniversary of John Evelyn's Sylva (1664).

Don't Look Back featured as a short story in the woodland anthology, Arboreal, published by Little Toller Books in 2016.

Gabriel Hemery co-founded Sylva Foundation, an environmental charity, and writes a popular tree and forestry blog. He lives near Oxford in England.

Follow @GabrielHemery on Twitter, on Amazon, Goodreads,
Buy Green Gold

About the book
In 1850, young Scottish plant hunter John Jeffrey was despatched by an elite group of Victorian subscribers to seek highly prized exotic trees in North America. An early letter home told of a 1,200-mile transcontinental journey by small boat and on foot.  Later, tantalising collections of seeds and plants arrived from British Columbia, Oregon and California, yet early promise soon withered. Four years after setting out, John Jeffrey, and his journals, disappeared without a trace.  Was he lost to love, violence or the Gold Rush? Green Gold combines meticulous research with the fictional narrative of Jeffrey’s lost journals, revealing an extraordinary adventure.

The golden-age of plant hunting - I kind of like that way of describing what our Victorian plant hunter does. I can imagine what plant hunters did seems quite uninteresting to the younger generations, perhaps even plenty of the older ones, but fact is without people like John Jeffrey we wouldn't know half the things we do about the flora in regions other than our own native ones.

Travelling all over the world, in this case predominantly North America, to discover new species of plant life. Walking, climbing, documenting and taking samples. It was also common practice to draw or sketch pictures to document each new plant or animal species. In fact I would suggest looking at some of those sketches, a lot of which are in the public domain, to see how detailed they are and how much work the artists put into them.

John Jeffrey was tasked with discovering and procuring the seeds of useful trees, shrubs and flowers to enhance or suited to the climate of the Britain. Advancing the arboriculture and horticulture was seen by many private benefactors as a way to enhance the beauty of their landscapes, gardens or surroundings in general. Of course this aspect of scientific exploration opened up the doorway to examining the potential for more profitable endeavours, such as finding multi-purpose plants.

Indeed, we now consume genetically adapted food groups, which are manipulated to acclimatise and grow to withstand conditions their original DNA wouldn't have survived or thrived in. Centuries ago the research was fuelled by the curious nature of rich patrons wanting to see exotic trees and plants in their gardens. Now research is about combating world hunger and feeding an over-populated planet.

I must say I have a new appreciation for this kind of read since reading At the Edge of the Orchard by Chevalier. I learnt so much about arboriculture, pomology and the breeding and pollination in climates foreign to certain species or seedlings.

It becomes clear that what is planned in theory by affluent men behind the closed doors of renowned societies is not the same as the practical application and reality of said plans. Given that Jeffrey was a botanist, a naturalist, a gardener sent out into the unknown frontier on the basis of often undecided terms dictated by a less than stellar communication flow of aforementioned affluent men, perhaps it isn't a surprise that the arrangement didn't work out as expected. The money men never felt as if he sent enough samples, his journals were never sent home as agreed or found at all, and Jeffrey was probably in way over his head. He simply disappeared whilst travelling. John Jeffrey was last seen in 1854 in San Fransisco and was thought to be heading to New Mexico.

Hemery has used old archives, letters, communication and articles on John Jeffrey and his expedition, and then filled in the blanks with a fictional narrative and story. I enjoyed the contradiction of the two sides of the coin, because it's a realistic representation of formal business communication and personal journals. John Jeffrey is deserving of high praise and I think his fellow colleagues and employers did and have done him a great disservice. It's easy to be critical from the confines of a plushy office or stately home, whilst someone else is braving the harsh weather, brutal and murderous climate of the gold rush, and the dangers of the wilderness.

It's a biographical story and it's also historical fiction, a story with blank spaces which Hemery has filled with the fictional emotions and experiences of a man who has earned his mention in the history books of botanical exploration and achievements. A man who collected at least 400 plant specimens and the seeds of 199 species, including 35 conifer tree species. How can anyone say that he did not fulfil his designated role, because he certainly left his mark on our landscapes with his botanical achievements.

Buy Green Gold at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Unbound Digital; pub date 18 April 2019. Buy at Amazon com.

1 comment:

  1. thanks so much for the blog tour support Cheryl x