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Review: The Three Loves of Persimmon by Cassandra Golds

three loves of persimmon golds Review: The Three Loves of Persimmon by Cassandra Golds

There's something enchanting about a train station, and it's no surprise that they are so frequently evoked in literature as a setting or a context. Train stations, after all, are perfect for bringing people together again, tearing them apart, sending them on journeys, or greeting them as they return. And it's those large, central stations in particular, those ones from which, and to which, all roads (or tracks, as the case may be) lead that are particularly memorable: they represent habits and opportunities, expectations and adventure and, best of all, veritably hum with the potential for novel encounters. But all too often this potential is not realised: people avoid meeting their fellow commuters' eyes, pretend not to recognise each other, and stampede along, alone in the bubble of their thoughts as they head along to wherever it is that they're going. It's this sort of habituated routine that Cassandra Golds in her novel'The Three Loves of Persimmon so beautifully examines.

Eponymous Persimmon is a daily fixture at the vast and grubby Botanical Gardens station, where she spends her days delightedly arranging posies of flowers and chatting with Rose, who provides some rather intellectual conversation given that she's a talking ornamental cabbage. Persimmon, however, doesn't begrudge her friend's green and leafy visage. This is rather lovely to see, given the fact that the young florist has been unceremoniously excommunicated from her family for showing a rather deviant interest in such useless things as flowers rather than agreeing to dedicate her life to, as the rest of her family has for generations, the far more pragmatic and sensible vegetable side of things.

Persimmon's stance on this integral flower-vegetable divide however, is rather less binary than that of the rest of her family. Rose, for example, straddles the line between flower and vegetable, being that she is not only an ornamental cabbage, but an exceptionally attractive one at that, and might well result in some challenging of flower-produce binaries. Indeed, Persimmon herself may be named for a fruit, but it's one that's often used in art and as ornamentation, and is perhaps not as pragmatic and sensible as, say, a potato. And while Persimmon may be a florist, with all the frippery and flippancy that this role apparently suggests, she also has a hard-headed intellectual streak, as indicated by her unapologetic adoration of a book that has been critically brutalised by the famed critic Mr Peabody and therefore disregarded by everyone else.

Persimmon, though, despite the quality of conversation offered by Rose (who is quite the literary sort, and is rather adamant that Shakespeare and his lot could be dramatically improved by the addition of a few vegies'and wouldn't be adverse to the idea of the sonnets being renamed 'the punnets'), is desperately lonely. After all, being stationed at the station means that she is a mere morning stop-off in the lives of most people, and such a thing isn't conducive to making friends or, of course, finding love. And our dear Persimmon, with her quixotic adoration for all things floral and pleasant, is quite the romantic sort. So it's no surprise that when her deceased (but clairvoyant) aunt begins to send her messages from beyond the grave telling her to get on with it, Persimmon begins to see potential lovers all around. But finding true love is not quite so simple as it might seem. Persimmon walks the Goldilocks-like line between the pragmatic and the playful, and it's telling when one potential suitor falls instead for a girl named Daisy, while another cruelly finds Persimmon too florid for his hard-headed tastes. For her own part, although it takes her some time to realise it, Persimmon is looking for someone like herself: someone who can stand happily in the overlapping portion of the vegetable-fruit Venn diagram.

Persimmon's search for love and acceptance is mirrored by a narrative involving a station mouse called Epiphany whose entire existence has thus far , like that of' several generations of station mice before her, taken place (in rather a mushroom- or potato-like manner, one might say) in the bowels of the train station. Indeed, Epiphany is scorned whenever she suggests that there might be something beyond this blinkered, limited existence, and the disappearance of her father, who had exhibited the same sorts of curiosity, frequently evoked as reason enough not to question the status quo. But a conversation with a weed blown in by a gusting wind is catalyst enough to send her on an, er, epiphanous journey of her own.

These two narratives, both drawn so beautifully and so enchantingly, come together in a surprising, utterly delightful manner, and it's all but impossible not to be charmed by the result, which is moving, illuminating, and frankly quite lovely. Golds has an exquisite sense of the fairytale genre, and she evokes every essential element in a way that is absolutely pitch perfect, without ever falling victim to cliche. Her writing is nimble and elegant, and at times gorgeously lyrical without the weight of authorial indulgence that can affect a lesser work. Her characters are gorgeous: they're archetypes without becoming stereotypes, and they're drawn with rich subtlety and allusive effect. (And I can't help but mention the strength and determination of the female characters, who were both unshakeable in their perspectives of self and identity'hoorah for feminism in a fable!) The train station setting is also beautifully exploited, with Golds making it work for her in that way that train stations are perfectly placed to do: as a place of fleeting encounters, adventurous departures and, of course, serendipitous meetings.

This is a beautiful, affecting tale of the need to challenge the status quo, question norms, address binaries and bigotries, and to remain unwavering on those things that are truly important to oneself and one's identity. It's a book that may initially seem slight, but that (as its cleverly ambiguous title suggests) opens itself up to reveal an astonishing depth of thought and internal richness.

Rating: star Review: The Three Loves of Persimmon by Cassandra Goldsstar Review: The Three Loves of Persimmon by Cassandra Goldsstar Review: The Three Loves of Persimmon by Cassandra Goldsstar Review: The Three Loves of Persimmon by Cassandra Goldsstar Review: The Three Loves of Persimmon by Cassandra Golds

With thanks to Penguin Australia for the review copy

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Other books by Cassandra Golds:

clair de lune Review: The Three Loves of Persimmon by Cassandra Goldsmuseum of mary child Review: The Three Loves of Persimmon by Cassandra Golds


  1. Why, this sounds absolutely lovely! Im adding it to my list right now.

  2. Oh, Im so excited that she has a new book out! Museum of Mary Child is a great favorite of mine. Thanks!

  3. Stephanie /

    My pleasure, Charlotte. I hope you enjoy it. :)

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