The Military Orchid by Jocelyn Brooke
Jocelyn Brooke's love affair with wild flowers and home-made fireworks began when he was growing up in Kent and exploring the countryside of the the Elham Valley. But there was one particular flower, especially rare and beautiful which became an obsession. Over three decades and through two world wars, in the deserts of Libya and the woodlands of Italy, in the chalk downs of Kent, Sussex and Hampshire, he searched continually for his most beloved and elusive Orchis militaris, the military orchid.Against the backdrop of his quintessentially English upbringing and his army career, with ts wonderful cast of snobbish neighbours, eccentric public school teachers and bullish staff sergeants, Jocelyn Brooke blends memoir, botany and satire to recall his lifelong quest.
The Military Orchid is a comic masterpiece and became widely revered: Kingsley Amis decribed Brooke as "brilliant and exciting", John Betjeman called him "as subtle as the devil", and to Anthony Powell he was "one of the most interesting and talented" writers to emerge after the Second World War.