Thursday, July 22, 2010

Book Review: The Bucolic Plague

I wanted to like this book.  I really, really, really did.  Perhaps, that's why I was disappointed.  I still did enjoy the read, I guess it was just not what I was expecting, and that failure to meet my expectation eventually let me down.

Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Dr. Brent Ridge are a couple from Manhattan.  During a trip to upstate New York, they stumble upon a small town called Sharon Springs.  In that town is an old farm called the Beekman Mansion.  The estate was created in 1802 by a local merchant and farmer, William Beekman.  After falling into disrepair, as so many of these places seem to do, it was available for sale when the two drove by.  On what was described as a whim, they purchased the farm and began plans on renovating and making it a second home.  After a time, the boys decided they, although it reads as though it were mostly Purcell, want to turn it into a full time home and need to find a way to make the farm self sufficient in order for that to happen.  Both have full time jobs in New York, Ridge with Martha Stewart and Purcell as an ad executive, so would be leaving substantial income and opportunities behind in order to accomplish this.

Now, that's where the story for me takes the turn I wasn't expecting.  I thought it would be more along the lines of hours of toiling in the soil, restoring the home, before and after pictures, etc.  Instead, it really is the memoire it is described as and spends much of its time on the relationship of Ridge and Purcell, the business aspect of what they are hoping to do, the characters in Sharon Springs and Martha Stewart.  There's lots of Martha.

The two also have a show shown in the US, I'm not sure if it's shown in other parts of the world, called "The Fabulous Beekman Boys".  The show follows there lives as they try and make the Beekman Farm become the self sustaining business and home they want it to be.  This book was written prior to that show, so don't expect tidbits of filming and the like.  I guess you can consider the book part one and the show part two of their journey.

Overall, I did enjoy this book.  I would recommend this book to anyone.  Keep in mind, that this book is more about following dreams and the stresses related to trying to start a business while balancing your personal life and not going bankrupt.  It is not what I would consider a farm or garden book.  And, I think that expectation is what led to my disappointment.


  1. I watch the show mainly for the picturesque view of their farm and town. The show itself seems pretty staged to me.

    Glad you didn't hate the book. Maybe I'll pick it up for a light read.

  2. Dear Turling, You have, I feel, whetted my appetite sufficiently here to be intrigued enough to seek out this book even though it is less about home and garden making than one might at first expect. However, it is always fascinating to delve into the lives of others -one so often learns so much.

    Books do though, as you remark, occasionally disappoint. Very recently I bought a novel about which I had read an excellent review on another weblog. Sadly, for me, the book completely failed to live up to expectations. Such is life!

  3. I'm always hesitant to recommend books to people. Which is funny, because I work in a damn bookstore :) Music and movies are much easier to give an opinion on. If I recommend a book, and someone spends hours reading it and doesn't like it, I feel bad lol.

  4. The premise does sound interesting -- maybe this is a book I'll check out from the library to thumb through. Seems to me that it's hard to find good gardening books lately.

  5. Thomas, I do the same. If they ever put that farm on the market...oh, who am I kidding, I can't afford it.

    Ms. Hope, it is still an excellent and quick read. I made the mistake of expecting one thing and getting another.

    Kyna, the irony of that statement. I do think with books, though, that they are very personal and I can see why you dislike recommending. Although, I have to wonder if a customer comes up and asks for a recommendation, what you say.

    Ms. Barrow, thank you for stopping by. I agree that gardening books seem to be falling in to the bigger pictures and only pictures are better category. Never fear, though, as I will continue looking and offering suggestions.

  6. Oh, I have one book in almost every genre that I go to as a standby. And I do know of a secret website that will recommend similar books if you type a title in...oh so secret...


  7. Sadly, as someone who writes, I must admit that I only currently read educational tomes about gardening, engineering manuals and books about brewing. The rest of the time I'm too busy killing plants, making poison and trying to make my motorcycles go faster to read. Plus, come the 14th, I've got football to watch.

    Spurs v Fiorentina and Spurs v Man City tickets arrived today; no reason to mention that, just showing off!

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  9. IG, after you've witnessed the MLS and San Jose Earthquakes, it's all down hill from there.