Abe’s sympathetic understanding of Ingram’s complex and oddly gentle nature is the consistent strength of The Sakura Obsession, and it makes the book one of the most charming, offbeat biographies to appear in years. And Abe convincingly broadens Ingram’s lifelong obsession (he lived for a century) to include many of the modern concerns for which he was a forerunner ... The Sakura Obsession tells in enchanting detail one of the most interesting background stories most springtime cherry blossom admirers don’t know when they’re admiring the evanescent beauties in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere.
In The Sakura Obsession, Naoko Abe, a Japanese journalist living in London, grafts two improbable stories onto the same rootstock. One tale is of an English gentleman with little previous experience of gardening, who became a world authority on cherry trees. The other traces how, in its homeland, the gentle sakura was perverted from a symbol of life and renewal to one of destruction and death ... Like the sakura itself, Ms. Abe’s book is a quiet pleasure—the story of a venerated flower and an English squire graced with the means to turn his passion into his vocation.
Combining vast historical research, perceptive cultural interpretation, and a gift for keen, biographical storytelling, Abe’s study of one man’s passion for a singular plant species celebrates the beneficial impact such enthusiasts can have on the world at large.