Gardening is something I prefer to do rather than read about. However I am prepared to make an exception with this book, it is most enjoyable.
Penelope Lively has always been a keen gardener. This book is partly a memoir of her own life in gardens; the large garden at home in Cairo where she spent most of her childhood, her grandmother’s garden in a sloping Somerset field, then two successive Oxfordshire gardens of the her own, and the smaller urban garden in the north London home she lives in today. It also a far-ranging exploration of gardens in literature, from Paradise Lost to Alice’s adventures in Wonderland, and of writers and their gardens, from Virginia Woolf to Philip Larkin.
I liked it because it reminded me of why I love gardening, by showing me how many art forms reflect other peoples love of the natural world, in painting, poetry and story-telling. It is informative, interesting and quite comforting to read. Gardening feeds your soul and earths you in a way that gives you respite from the travails of your life.
It reminded me of a day when I was a child. I was with my father and my sister and we wandered into a garden in Headcorn. The unoccupied property it belonged to was a beautiful large timber framed house and the gardens were lovely. They contained areas of light and shade, a large fruit garden with entangled briars of raspberry and loganberry. There were ponds, one which would now be called a natural swimming pond and another an ornamental pond. We were all feeling a bit sad because our family were being broken up and we wandered around this garden and felt a bit better. I have returned to this garden in my dreams, it is like that middle place in the Chronicles of Narnia, from where you can reach other worlds, if you can just find the way. Life in the Garden by Penelope Lively