Thursday, 9 February 2012

Elizabeth and her German garden

After reading Alex's review of Elizabeth and her German garden, I knew I would have to read it as well.  If a non-gardener thoroughly enjoyed it, I thought, I would simply love it, given that I'm an avid gardener!  (That, and the fact that it was available from the Gutenberg project made my choice fairly easy). 

Reading this book is very relaxing - there are no serious (at least not very serious) ideas coming through, and I have to say it's really like reading a diary.  At times I did feel uncomfortable peeping into the world of someone else (I might as well have taken her diary...), but on the whole I was able, with this book, to shut the outside world and its troubles!

At first, I thought that it was a contemporary book.  Until I got to the part where she mentioned that as a woman she could not inherit her father's house, I would never have guessed that it is that old (I hadn't read her bio at that point).  The sentiments towards the garden, of willing solitude, of comfort, of home away from home, all these and more I could easily see in myself and my garden today.

However, as much as I loved Elizabeth talking about her garden (and her books) in the first part of the book, I couldn't say the same for when she talks about her life and the people around her in the second part.  I found her at best spoilt, 

"I can understand her disliking Irais, but she must be a perverse creature not to like me"

but also fairly naive, especially in the presence of her husband, the Man of Wrath - of course, one has to bear in mind the time in which the book was written as well as Elizabeth's situation:  privileged, sheltered and solitary.  I admit I found her relationship  to her three children, who she names the April, May and June babies, rather peculiar, as she seems to prefer to have her quiet moments in her garden rather than tending to them. And in general, I felt a slight sadness on her part when not in the garden, something I cannot relate to.  I find that the garden and my books are only one part of me, which I enjoy as much as all the other parts of my life.

But back to the leisurely aspect of this book, there are passages throughout that reflect the period Elizabeth lives in and which are just hilarious:

"if Eve had had a spade in Paradise and known what to do with it, we shold not have had all that sad business of the apple"

"... and shelves and shelves full of - I was going to say books, but stopped. Reading is an occupation for men; for women it is reprehensible waste of time."

"If you are not careful, April", I said, "you'll be a genius when you grow up and disgrace your parents"

When reading this book, one should not look too deep for "political correctness".  Rather, I would look at the joy and gratitude and love of the beauty found in nature.  Elizabeth rediscovers herself in her garden, and I rediscovered myself in mine too. A gentle, light-hearted, lovely book to read.


  1. Maybe it was because I read it audio format and voice intonations added extra information, but I saw sentences like the one you included above (I can understand...) as sarcasm. She gave me the impression she loved her children and husband very much, but joked about them (English humor?).

    1. that can be true in an audiobook - perhaps my prejudice (I thought of her as spoilt from page 1...) got me to read the book in a totally different manner

  2. I bought this book about 20 odd years ago, just because it was beautiful to look at, leather bound with gilt edged pages, so it was a plus that I loved what was inside it too. I'm sure it was very autobiographical and it is very funny, full of English humour, but in reality the family went bankrupt, probably because she was spending so much money on her garden! Her other books are well worth reading too, especially The Enchanted April.

    1. indeed, the Enchanted April is on my TBR list!

  3. I want to read this based on Alex's review too. I could totally understand how the author would prefer to spend time alone in the garden to looking after her kids, sometimes. Not all the time, but sometimes, yes. The bliss of having time to yourself! :-)

    1. aahhh... even without children, me-time is so necessary!!!




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