When it was originally published in 1963, LIFE magazine called The Death of the Orange Trees an “American Cherry Orchard.” It is a short novel dealing with two families forced to come to terms with the real life of the present.
The Gerrishes are an old New England family keeping up an elegant style of life in Connecticut, too lavish for their means. Symbolizing their obeisance to a bygone time are their orange trees which must be relocated twice a year because of the unsuitable climate. Their only married daughter, Maria, lives with her painter husband, Paul, and their six children in the caretaker’s cottage and the life of her own family is not lived according standards of the Gerrishes. Maria’s problem is one of divided loyalties; she really can’t decide where she belongs—with the family that created her or with the family she created—and this dichotomy carries over into the lives of her children.
“I congratulate Claire Nicolas on the successful working-out of an ambitious theme. So many first novels these days are narrow and too personal that it is a relief to find a new author attempting to design on a big canvas”
Daphne Du Maurier, from the 1963 edition
In the novel’s original publication, Claire was asked to remove her married name from the novel because it was inspired by the Stanford White’s family. This is the first time the book is being released under her own name.