Some plants have sustained empires and sparked wars. Some have ignited public outrage. Think tea, opium, tulips – and thistles.
In 1852 South Australia passed its Thistle Act, probably the first weed control legislation anywhere in the world.
The word 'thistle' refers to a large and widespread group of plants. Several hundred species within the Asteraceae family, plus a bunch of other plants we call thistles – even though technically, botanically, they're not. Google 'thistles' and many of the sites will tell you how to get rid of them. Dig a little deeper, however, and from this weedy territory other narratives begin to emerge.
Part accidental memoir, part environmental history and part exploration of the performative voice on the page, The Book of Thistles is about the cultural and social life of this group of plants we call thistles.
"Deeply curious about history's 'gaps and silences', Janaczewska's work explores subjects that have been overlooked or marginalised. In The Book of Thistles, she couples her idiosyncratic fascination for this sub-species with a willingness to transgress the boundaries of literary genres, to explore big themes and questions. Thus, while we learn much about thistles themselves, they are also a vehicle for exploring questions of belonging, value, and marginality. Often witty, sometimes political and occasionally profound, this latest offering from Janaczewska provides much on which to ruminate."
– Ceridwen Spark, Australian Book Review
"The book has real charm, originality and a subversive kick."
– The Saturday Paper