Glorious Writers With Gorgeous Gardens

      Each year I like to read at least one book that is garden based and sheds light on how it can influence your mind and work (i.e. any tangent that propels growth). To those among you who are new to this blog here are a few samples:

With this in the backdrop, here is the review of a book that brings together two of my many passions, namely writing and gardening. But before I begin, below are a few photographs of flowers from my garden, to set the mood for this lovely book.

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Review of: The Writer’s Garden: How Gardens Inspired Our Best –Loved Authors

      This book is set in an era when it was possible to make a fortune by writing well and then investing it into a home and a garden. I say fortune because some of the gardens in this book cover 300-600 acres of land! Fanning through the pages of this book you’ll be smitten by the stunning photography of gorgeous estates, flowers, fruits and rare pictures of the writers in sepia tones, from a bygone era. Don’t let that fool you into thinking that it is a coffee table book, for you will miss out on a lovely read. It is a blessing for the reader when the prose and pictures complement each other.

      The author,  Jackie Bennett has covered 19 ‘best-loved’ authors by focusing on how gardens inspired them and their writing. There is quite a diversity of what genre they write about e.g.:

      Each chapter covers one author with a sketchy biography of his/ her childhood, whom they married, major ups and downs in their life, how their garden evolved and inspired their writing. It is sprinkled with lovely quotes, gorgeous pictures, a list of all the books each wrote and how each estate is being used in today’s world. A nifty package in a few pages showing paradise!

      It was interesting to learn what aspect of the garden each one enjoyed e.g. Beatrix Potter and John Clare thrived on flowers, Agatha Christie and Laurence Sterne were into biodiversity (with huge plant collections), Walter Scott and Thomas Hardy enjoyed the trees and the sound their leaves created. Churchill liked large open spaces under the blue sky and Roald Dahl loved the touch of earth. It is quite funny when you imagine their home lifestyle with their work day e.g. imagine Charles Dickens writing “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”  with a home full of nine children!!!

      The prose that ties each chapter into a coherent whole is also lovely. Here are a few samples:

– As John Clare grew up ‘botanizing’ and poetry were his chief pursuits…he studied wild flowers with a botanist’s eye but a poet’s soul.

– Robert Burns was a farmer by day, but a poet by night.

Robert Brooke: …his poems are filled with the joy of being alive, of being young and in love.

      As the story of each author unfolds, it is very interesting to learn how each one found comfort and solace in the sanctuary of his/her garden, while going through the ups and downs (death, disease, divorce etc.) of life. Some of them are quite tragic and used the garden as a way to fill up the missing elements of their life. As for the ups of life, three among them (Churchill, G.B.Shaw and R.Kipling) went on to receive the Nobel prize for Literature.

      All of the 19 chapters make very dramatic stories. So much writing talent came from the same country in the same era that the reader is bound to feel that the environment must have played a huge role in it. In a book I read and reviewed recently, it explains the science behind why nature makes us happier, healthier, and more creative. This book is a living proof of this as it demonstrates it through the lives of 19 best-loved authors.

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Bleeding Hearts
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Before I wrap up, here are a few more flowers from my garden that also grew in the gardens of these glorious writers, whom I understand better now, thanks to this book.

Ratna

Photo Credit: SMD & RD

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I am intrigued by writers who garden and gardeners who write. The pen and trowel are not interchangeable, but seem often linked.

– Marta McDowell

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