By Any Other Name

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A book review of By Any Other Name: a Cultural History of the Rose by Simon Morley

A book review of By Any Other Name: a Cultural History of the Rose by Simon Morley

Stars: ****

OneWorld Publications (2021)
304 pages

Disclosure: I received this book in exchange for an honest review. This post contains affiliate links.

Summary: The rose is bursting with meaning. Over the centuries it has come to represent love and sensuality, deceit, death and the mystical unknown. Today the rose enjoys unrivalled popularity across the globe, ever present at life’s seminal moments.

Grown in the Middle East two thousand years ago for its pleasing scent and medicinal properties, it has become one of the most adored flowers across cultures, no longer selected by nature, but by us. The rose is well-versed at enchanting human hearts. From Shakespeare’s sonnets to Bulgaria’s Rose Valley to the thriving rose trade in Africa and the Far East, via museums, high fashion, Victorian England and Belle Epoque France, we meet an astonishing array of species and hybrids of remarkably different provenance.

This is the story of a hardy, thorny flower and how, by beauty and charm, it came to seduce the world.

By Any Other Name

First I want to clarify my rating of 4 stars. I found the book dry and a little boring and would personally rate it a 2 or 3 stars for my enjoyment, HOWEVER the book does a great job of what it set out to do which is give a history of the rose. In that it succeeded. I didn’t want to rate it low for doing a good job. It was just a bit more scientific and historic than what I was expecting.

This is a very thorough history of the rose. It starts out with the scientific explanation of how the rose evolved and the different types of roses there are. Did you know the rose used to only flower for a few weeks a year? You’ll never guess how old the oldest rose bush is!

After that there are chapters on the following: Pagan Roses, Monotheistic Roses, Love and the Rose, Death and the Rose, Mystical Roses, Poetic Roses (of 19th century), Painted Roses, Eastern Roses and Modern Roses. I had never thought of the Rose in these contexts so it was interesting in some parts. Although I’m not a history lover, I do like microhistories which this book is.

What could have made the book better? Photos! There wasn’t one photo or even illustration in a book about Roses and Art.

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About Kathleen

I've been a nonfiction lover for as long as I can remember. I love children's nonfiction as well and love to share my knowledge and the books I gained them from, with the world. I wish more people would give nonfiction a chance.