Orchard: A Novel

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Orchard: A Novel

by Larry Watson

Random House Publishing Group | June 8, 2004 | Trade Paperback

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From the bestselling author of Montana 1948 comes the explosive story of an artist, his muse, and the staggering price they pay for their chance at immortality.

Sonja Skordahl, a Norwegian immigrant, came to America looking for a new life. Instead, she settled in Door County, Wisconsin, and married Henry House—only to find herself defined by her roles as wife and mother. Destiny lands Sonja in the studio of Ned Weaver, an internationally acclaimed painter. There she becomes more than his model and more than a mere object of desire; she becomes the most inspiring muse Ned has ever known, much to the chagrin of the artist’s wife. When both Ned and Henry insist on possessing Sonja, their jealousies threaten to erupt into violence—as she struggles to appease both men without sacrificing her hard-won sense of self.

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 256 pages, 8.01 × 5.13 × 0.51 in

Published: June 8, 2004

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0375758542

ISBN - 13: 9780375758546

Found in: Romance

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– More About This Product –

Orchard: A Novel

by Larry Watson

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 256 pages, 8.01 × 5.13 × 0.51 in

Published: June 8, 2004

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0375758542

ISBN - 13: 9780375758546

About the Book

The bestselling author of "Montana 1948" spins an unforgettable story of obsession and betrayal, set against the stark backdrop of rural Wisconsin.

Read from the Book

Henry House stayed out of the orchard’s open aisles and instead kept close to the apple trees as he tried to work his way unnoticed down the hill. This meant he could barely rise out of a crouch, ducking under one low gnarly branch after another. The new November snow further complicated matters. It was just enough to cover the few apples that still lay on the ground, and when Henry stepped on one it was likely to burst under his weight, causing him to skid on the slick snow and apple mush underfoot. Each time this happened, apple scent rose up to his nostrils, and in his mind he heard again his father’s old reproach: Watch where you walk. The apple trees gave out well short of the cabin, but the final eighty yards were no easier to negotiate. The scrub trees and brush thickened, the hill steepened sharply, and Henry had to dig in the edges of his boots and descend sideways to keep from hurtling headlong down the slope. He had taken no more than three steps, however, when he lost what little foothold he had. He wasn’t sure if it was another apple he’d stepped on or a pocket of wet leaves, but his foot slid out from under him, and he fell hard on his backside. In the next instant, he was sliding down the hill with the speed of a child on a sled, threatening to slam feetfirst into the very building he had hoped to creep up on. For all the suddenness of Henry’s fall, it did not feel to him, in those first seconds, so much like an accident as a fulfi
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From the Publisher

From the bestselling author of Montana 1948 comes the explosive story of an artist, his muse, and the staggering price they pay for their chance at immortality.

Sonja Skordahl, a Norwegian immigrant, came to America looking for a new life. Instead, she settled in Door County, Wisconsin, and married Henry House—only to find herself defined by her roles as wife and mother. Destiny lands Sonja in the studio of Ned Weaver, an internationally acclaimed painter. There she becomes more than his model and more than a mere object of desire; she becomes the most inspiring muse Ned has ever known, much to the chagrin of the artist’s wife. When both Ned and Henry insist on possessing Sonja, their jealousies threaten to erupt into violence—as she struggles to appease both men without sacrificing her hard-won sense of self.

From the Jacket

From the bestselling author of Montana 1948 comes the explosive story of an artist, his muse, and the staggering price they pay for their chance at immortality.
Sonja Skordahl, a Norwegian immigrant, came to America looking for a new life. Instead, she settled in Door County, Wisconsin, and married Henry House--only to find herself defined by her roles as wife and mother. Destiny lands Sonja in the studio of Ned Weaver, an internationally acclaimed painter. There she becomes more than his model and more than a mere object of desire; she becomes the most inspiring muse Ned has ever known, much to the chagrin of the artist''s wife. When both Ned and Henry insist on possessing Sonja, their jealousies threaten to erupt into violence--as she struggles to appease both men without sacrificing her hard-won sense of self.

About the Author

Larry Watson is the author of In a Dark Time, Montana 1948, Justice, White Crosses, and Laura. He has won the Milkweed Fiction Prize, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, the Mountain and Plains Booksellers Association Regional Award, and many other literary prizes. Watson and his wife, Susan, live in Plover, Wisconsin.


From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

“This book will leave you illuminated. . . . If there exists a literary equivalent to the artist’s play of light on a canvas, then Larry Watson has mastered it. . . . Every scene of Orchard is painted with deliberate, vivid strokes of radiance. . . . Watson’s sparse words and controlled prose turn a remote town and four lonely characters into a remarkable tale.”
—Baltimore Sun

“Clear-eyed, close-to-the-bone, inherently dramatic and endlessly implicative . . . Watson’s insights into his characters not only bring them to life, but also shed light on the nature of art, love and marriage.”
—Los Angeles Times Book Review

“An enthralling, thought-provoking read . . . This is a story that comes together at its own internal pace, and when whole understanding dawns, it is with clear power.”
—The Denver Post

“[A] powerful tale . . . captivating and haunting, and very hard to put down.”
—The Washington Post Book World

Bookclub Guide

1. The author compares the novel’s form to an Impressionist painting. Where do you think this idea comes from? Does the form work?

2. How might Orchard’s nonchronological form be justified? How would the novel change if it were structured differently?

3. Much is made of possession and ownership in this novel; we see shifts in power among almost all of the characters. Discuss some of its manifestations or variations of the theme.

4. Why do you think Harriet Weaver stays with her husband? Do you understand her motivations? What would you do in her position?

5. Throughout Orchard, paintings are portrayed in vivid detail. How do these descriptions function in the novel?

6. It is clear that several of Watson’s characters undergo emotionally draining experiences. How do these characters change over the course of the novel?

7. What does Orchard say about the responsibility of the artist? Ned Weaver has a very definite view on the matter. Are readers likely to share his opinion?

8. What inspires Sonja to pose for Weaver? Do you think her reasons change? Does she harbor any regrets about her decision?

9. Is it enough to say that Henry House is jealous that his wife is posing for Ned Weaver, or are his feelings more complex?

10. What are some of the different attitudes toward art in the novel? Toward artists?

11. Would you pose for an artist?

12. How is a muse different from a model?




From the Hardcover edition.
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