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In Bloom

Reviewed by Aimee Piper

(Simon & Schuster: 2023) by Eva Verde

‘Delph breathes in, her mother suddenly all around her. Their strange umbilical tie stretching

beyond the visible’ (58). 

Eva Verde’s second novel In Bloom (Simon & Schuster: 2023) is an intimate and moving exploration of growth and resilience. Following three generations of women: Roche Tennyson, her mother Delph Tennyson, and her grandmother Moon, the novel plots their battle with love, loss, and change. 

Rife with ghosts of the past, Essex, where the novel is set, is transformed into an ‘old haunt’ (176) as the past and present entangle with one another. The past becomes a form of entrapment. Delph is consumed by grief; and Moon is trapped in her trauma - the Tennyson women suffer repeating cycles of masculine violence, ensnaring them within Essex.

Roche, however, desires to be the ‘bud who makes it’ (373). Dreaming of studying at university in Edinburgh, she must disentangle the web of entrapment, unearthing the past and extricating herself from her stressful relationship with her mother. It is this entrapment within her relationship with her mother, and Delph’s boyfriend Itsy’s patriarchal flat, that forces Roche to seek refuge at Moon’s house, a space free from masculine influence. This departure from the domestic space re-entangles the three women’s lives.

Verde entwines nature with the ‘umbilical tie’ (58) of maternal lineage, aligning women, female connection and nature with one another. The association of women with nature often perpetuates patriarchal tradition, reinforcing the idea that women must yield to masculine domination. However, Verde twines hope into this lineation. For every step forward or moment of healing for the Tennyson women there is a rolling hill, an asparagus plant or some blooming foxgloves.  

Nature becomes a female domain, in contrast to the masculine space of Itsy and Delph’s flat, which is a ‘kingdom’ (49) of Itsy’s control. Delph’s balcony garden within their flat is a small resistance to Itsy’s control, as she grows asparagus, despite his derision and disbelief that it will grow. In spite of him, it does; and so does she. Nature grows in tandem with these women, providing sanctuary against the entrapping domestic spaces and their suffocating masculine traditions, but also entwining them with one another. 

Verde re-ties the connection between women and nature, no longer aligning women with the expectation that they yield to men’s consumption, instead celebrating interconnection, resilience and growth. I would recommend In Bloom to anyone who enjoys Zadie Smith’s NW, as both novels explore connection and femininity.

Eva Verde will be talking to Suffolk Book League at an event on Wednesday 11th September 2024.


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