The Weeds

Farrar. Apr. 2023. 320p. ISBN 9780374605476. $27. F
In Smith’s (The Everlasting) new novel, two women separated by 170 years catalogue the flora at the Roman Colosseum. In 1855, a woman (and a subtle thief) who grieves her former lover (who married a man and is now on her honeymoon) during her apprenticeship to botanist Richard Deakin. She logs over 400 species, using the catalogue of plants as a way to process her loss, then her fear as her father maneuvers her into her own marriage. Deakin publishes her work under his name, though her knowledge of plants eventually brings about his downfall. In modern times, a U.S. Southerner attempts to recreate the catalogue as her fieldwork under her (male) academic advisor, tracking how climate change brings loss to the diversity of the plants at the Colosseum, as her advisor takes credit for her work and fails to help her launch her own independent research.
VERDICT This subtle, intelligent work—arranged like a catalogue of plants, complete with sketches
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