Excerpt from The Seed Collectors by Scarlett Thomas, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Seed Collectors

by Scarlett Thomas

The Seed Collectors by Scarlett Thomas X
The Seed Collectors by Scarlett Thomas
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  • First Published:
    May 2016, 396 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2017, 396 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Sharry Wright
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And now Oleander is gone.



* * *

The doorway to Fleur's cottage smells of lapsang souchong, black cardamom and roses, which is a bit how Fleur herself smells, although with Fleur there are layers and layers of scents, each one more rare and strange than the last. Her perfume, since they discontinued Givenchy III because of something to do with the oak moss in it, is Chanel's 31 Rue Cambon. She is peppery, woody . . . She is the essence of chypre. She is deep, green, magical: something you'd find naked by a remote lake. Something that would let you, no, encourage you, to do whatever you . . . Beyond the doorway, where there are pre-dinner smells of chocolate, fruit and fresh spices, Charlie can hear someone crying, probably Bryony. His sister Clem never cries. And then Fleur's voice.

'I had to let you know as soon as possible, basically.'

'It's just, I mean, I'm thrilled for you. But why?'

'I think . . . I mean, I do feel a bit awkward.'

'But let's face it, though, our husbands would want to sell it.'

'James wants a bloody forest.'

'Ollie doesn't know what he wants, really. Or what I want. But he definitely wants money.'

'I do think that's probably why.'

So Fleur has inherited Namaste House. Well. Oleander must have known, then. She must have known that Fleur is Augustus's daughter. But why not give a share to anyone else? Charlie can see Fleur biting her lip in that way she does, trying to explain, trying to find a way of telling her oldest friends that she is unbelievably rich and they are not, when it was supposed to be the other way around. But they must appreciate that she has worked there for free for almost fifteen years, using her strange, quiet instinct for business to take the place out of danger of bankruptcy. And . . . well, actually, for God's sake, why has no one ever seen it? The family resemblance is so striking it is almost embarrassing. Or it would be if anyone bothered to look. She and Charlie resemble twins found huddled together approximately twenty years after being abandoned in a remote jungle. Or maybe Harrods. In any case, if you left twins together for that long, alone, perhaps it's inevitable that they would . . . But anyway, they are hardly together any more, and everyone else is so wrapped up in themselves that it's likely that no one will ever notice, and no one will ever know. Which hurts Charlie in a way he can't quite . . .

'What, because Ollie's such an idiot?'

'No! Of course not! But yeah, I guess I will keep the whole thing going and look after Ketki and Ish, and Bluebell, and the Prophet, for the rest of their lives. Oleander knew I'd do that. I've been trained to do that for, like, forever. I'm not going to sell up because running Namaste House is literally the only thing I know how to do.'

'But she gave you no idea she was planning . . .'

'No. Well, not exactly. You know what she was like. But then she didn't tell me that she was going to give all of us a seed pod each either. Or that Quinn left a journal. And then of course there's that amazing hunting lodge on Jura. I didn't even know we – she – even owned that. You and Charlie will have to work out what you're all going to do with it. I mean it's got to be worth loads as well, right? It looked way bigger than Namaste House. It must be so exciting! So we've all done OK really, not that we should see it in that way, because of course we'd all rather have Oleander back and everything. It's just so strange the way that . . .'

It is strange, Charlie thinks. But Oleander must definitely have known. She knew all about Augustus and Briar Rose and their secret daughter. No one thought it was odd when Oleander let Fleur stay on in the house after her mother disappeared. Fleur had grown up in that place after all. Where else was she supposed to go? And where was Oleander going to get another yoga teacher that she wouldn't have to pay? But now all the extra responsibility she gave Fleur makes sense. And of course the huge gift of the cottage. She must always have known Fleur was one of the family; that Fleur had Gardener blood in her. But leaving Namaste House – the whole operation – to her? What the fuck is that about? Charlie is pleased for Fleur, of course he is, but what are Beatrix and Augustus going to say? And what in God's name are they all – the younger generation, the ones left behind – supposed to do with a seed pod each? What was Oleander trying to say there? Go kill yourselves? Will there be something in Quinn's journal that explains further? But if Oleander had things and knew things that were important then why hide them for the last twenty-odd years? Clem has already asked to read the journal, and Bryony has shrugged and said yeah, for sure, but she just wants to read it first, as Quinn was her father after all. Which basically means no. And as for this hunting lodge on Jura, which he, Clem and Bryony now own, and which Fleur is still trying to make sound exciting and even better than Namaste House, no one knows how that came to be in the family at all. They'll go and visit it in July, they have decided. It's two plane rides away in the depths, if such a thing exists, of the Inner Hebrides, off the west coast of Scotland. And then to make things even more confusing there is this woman lurking about called Ina who turned up at the funeral from the Outer Hebrides . . . She was saying something about the frankincense tree before and . . .

Excerpted from The Seed Collectors by Scarlett Thomas. Copyright © 2016 by Scarlett Thomas. Excerpted by permission of Soft Skull Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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