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Publisher's Summary

A rich, sweeping, and compelling work of botanical history, The Cabaret of Plants explores dozens of plant species that for millennia have challenged our imaginations, awoken our wonder, and upturned our ideas about history, science, beauty, and belief. Going back to the beginnings of human history, Richard Mabey shows how flowers, trees, and plants have been central to human experience not just as sources of food and medicine but as objects of worship, actors in creation myths, and symbols of war and peace, life and death.

Mabey takes listeners from the Himalayas to Madagascar to the Amazon to our own backyards. He ranges through the work of writers, artists, and scientists and across nearly 40,000 years of human history: Ice Age images of plant life in ancient cave art and the earliest representations of the Garden of Eden; Newton's apple and gravity, Priestley's sprig of mint and photosynthesis, and Wordsworth's daffodils; the history of cultivated plants such as maize, ginseng, and cotton; and the ways the sturdy oak became the symbol of British nationhood and the giant sequoia came to epitomize the spirit of America.

©2015 Richard Mabey (P)2016 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"An unusual and vastly entertaining journey into the world of mysterious plant life as experienced by a gifted nature writer." ( Kirkus)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Can't wait to listen to again!

Since discovering author Richard Mabey's delightful book, "Weeds: In Defense of Nature's Most Unloved Plants" earlier this year, I was thrilled when this turned up on Audible! I listened to a sample (sometimes the reader turns you off a book---after all, this is someone you're going to have to listen to for HOURS!) I was confident u would enjoy both book and reader. I read a LOT, but I live in NYC and sometimes the trains are crowded and you can't get a seat or I'm stuck in a line at the market---with audiobooks, I at least don't feel like this is time wasted. The book skirts between scientific studies, history, and personal narrative. If you're looking for a dry textbook, this is not for you. But if you appreciate plants and poetry, philosophy, and political science... It's a walk with in the park with a modern-dat Walt Whitman. Highly recommend!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Fascinating

The content of this book was fascinating. I listened actively and googled pictures of plants, paintings, and wiki-bios of the people mentioned. I'm not sure the antiquated Queens English narration was necessary, but maybe it helps connect to a Victorian botany theme in the book.

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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If you like Walden you might like this...maybe.

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

People who are really into philosophical conjecture and navel gazing.

Would you ever listen to anything by Richard Mabey again?

Doubtful.

Did the narration match the pace of the story?

The narration was actually really nice. It kept me listening longer than I would have otherwise. The content of the book is what kills it.

What character would you cut from The Cabaret of Plants?

The narrator (not the voice actor the main character).

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Engaging writing, entertaining audio

Narrator was great, his accent fit very well. Great story that had a good mix of humor and information. Great if you like plants and evolution.

0 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

It was ok.

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

there were parts liked, but the flowery language was a little too much for me after a while.

Was The Cabaret of Plants worth the listening time?

I probabley wouldn't listen, knowing what I know now.

0 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Ideas jump about

Is there anything you would change about this book?

There's such a lot of peripheral detail that I got bogged down by unrelated happenings (how a friend photographs flowers, for instance.) There's only a scraping of information that is about 40,000 years of history: it's notable by its absence until agriculture became more prominent and records of any kind were left for us today. True, I have only listened to the first chapter, but there seems to be little of the "history" of plants and the imagination.

Would you recommend The Cabaret of Plants to your friends? Why or why not?

No. Most of my friends prefer a straightforward logical approach to information about even non-scientific topics.

How could the performance have been better?

The breathy excitement of the narrator may show his enthusiasm, but it's one-note approach was difficult to relax to.

Was The Cabaret of Plants worth the listening time?

I would rather have read it in my own way. Later chapters do sound interesting.

Any additional comments?

Perhaps I should not have had preconceived notions that could be so easily disappointed. I did listen to the online intro, but this personal odyssey was not what I expected.

1 of 8 people found this review helpful