Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Non-Fiction: Blue Heaven by Bill Terry

Editor’s Note: Running this review just a few days after C.J. Box’s Blue Heaven won the Edgar Award seems pleasingly ironic. And it goes to show that everyone’s idea of heaven is just a little different.

Picture this: it’s late spring 1922. A British expedition is traversing the East Rongbuk Valley in Tibet when they come across the most extraordinary thing: a beautiful and mysterious hyacinth blue poppy. In the end, though, as author Bill Terry tells us in Blue Heaven (Touchwood Editions) the poppy wasn’t a poppy at all. “It was a meconopsis, a name derived from the Greek mekon (poppy) and opsis (like). The climbers had found Meconopsis grandis, commonly known as the Tibetan Poppy or the Himalayan Blue Poppy.”

That explanation, on the very first page of Blue Heaven, is about as technical as Terry lets things get, though it is clearly understood throughout that he has his material well under control.

Part adventure travel, part gardener’s memoir and guide and all parts love letter to a flower that has captured men’s imagination since time out of mind. What comes through on every page, though, is Terry’s clear passion for his subject. The resulting book rings with both authority and echoes of that passion. It’s a wonderful little book. One need not be a gardener or amateur botanist to appreciate Bill Terry’s very special Blue Heaven.

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