This was always going to be a book that appealed, based as it is on my two great loves: literature and gardens. And it didn’t disappoint.
It sits somewhere between a glossy coffee table tome and a more scholarly work with Richard Hanson’s beautiful photographs a complement to Jackie Bennett’s careful research.
She takes us on a tour of the country through the gardens of such literary luminaries as Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf and Thomas Hardy. For some, the garden was a source of inspiration, for others a place of refuge.
We learn of Dickens’ penchant for scarlet pelargoniums, which he always wore as a buttonhole, while Roald Dahl developed a passion for orchids.
John Ruskin used his garden on the shores of Coniston Water as an outdoor laboratory, exploring ways of working with nature. For others, including Dahl and Jeffrey Archer, the garden was a place to write, while turning land at Abbotsford in rural Scotland into a “wooded Eden” became an all-consuming project for Sir Walter Scott.
The gardens’ influence can be seen in much of the writers’ work: the Battery in Agatha Christie’s Devon plot features in several of her novels; Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top country garden is the backdrop for many of her stories and who can forget Rupert Brooke’s yearning for The Old Vicarage at Grantchester in the poem of the same name?
These references are placed in context by Bennett, who includes in each section a timeline of the author’s work while associated with the garden in question.
With short, easily digested chapters and details on visiting the gardens, most of which are open to the public, this is a book for dipping into and the starting point for further exploration.
• The Writer’s Garden, by Jackie Bennett, photography Richard Hanson, is published by Frances Lincoln.
• Review copy supplied by The Suffolk Anthology
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