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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Print Excerpt


Fleur's voice has long since trailed off. There's a long pause followed by the sound of a teaspoon hitting bone china just slightly too hard.

'Will you have to get some kind of qualification now? I mean, if you're going to take over running all the therapy and yoga and everything?'

'Bryony!'

'Well, she's talked about it often enough. And I've really enjoyed going back to uni. I just thought . . .'

Charlie pushes the open door and calls 'Hello?' to let them know he's coming, and to give the impression that he's only just arrived and hasn't been listening to their conversation for the last ten minutes. His Vans don't make any sound on the black-and-white Victorian tiles in Fleur's entrance hall. He wore a suit for the funeral itself but has since been back to Bryony's and changed into his favourite Acne faded corduroy trousers and a white T-shirt with a yellow Alexander McQueen cardigan over the top. 'You look like an old person,' is what Holly said when she saw him. So he tried the Acne blazer that was his second choice but a bit matchy-matchy with the trousers. 'You look like you've been to Debenhams,' she said. 'You are basically an old person who goes to Debenhams, and even has lunch there, with slimy peas and gravy.' She sort of had a point; he could see that. But maybe you have to be over eleven to understand that fashion is not only – or even – about looking good. At eleven it is impossible to understand why grown-ups wouldn't want to be happy all the time and go around in ball gowns drinking fruit juice and eating chocolates and spending their wages on puppies, kittens, board games, picnics, trips to the cinema and visits to the donkey sanctuary. Charlie supposes that if Holly were ever in charge of a budget there'd have to be a tennis court too. And cut flowers. He suddenly sees her holding vast bunches of pale pink peonies, weighing more than she does, probably, with early-summer sunlight glinting off her almost-black hair.

The women are in the drawing room on the right. Charlie breathes deeply, as he always does when he enters this room, as if to actually take it into his body: the polished oak floorboards; the Sanderson Grandiflora wallpaper in eggshell and bronze; the antique sofas that Fleur reupholstered herself using various old Liberty fabrics, all with botanical, slightly otherworldly prints. The large vase of pussy willow on the apothecary-style coffee table. Fleur herself is sitting in the rocking chair, which has a print of dark pink and purple organisms that are almost, but not quite, recognisable flowers. Clem and Bryony are sitting together on the pinker of the two George Walton sofas. In front of them Charlie is pleased to see the Wedgwood Golden Bird tea set he bought Fleur for her thirtieth birthday. He, of course, is still wearing the labradorite pendant she made for him all those years ago. They've hardly spoken for months after that argument about Pi last July, although of course they saw each other earlier at the funeral, but from opposite ends of a row. Now here he is.

'Hello,' says Fleur. 'I'd offer you a cup of tea but actually we're due to have cocktails in half an hour when the others arrive so unless you're desperate . . .'

The smell of Fleur's lapsang souchong blend. But . . .

'I'm fine. Can I help with anything?'

'Yes, actually,' says Fleur. 'Come and help me pick some mint.'

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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