Wednesday, 6 August 2008

A GARDENER'S SUMMER READING, NUMBER 1

















Wandering into my local junk shop the other day to drop off some curtains I had no further use for, I began (inevitably) picking through the books, as a theme began to form in my mind. Why not, in lieu of a summer holiday, read all nice books about gardening? Not, like Jane Perrone, doing a re-read of the grand tour of horticultural greats; in my case, it's more a case of digging into the randomest country lanes of gardening-related literature and seeing what odd little turnings there are to be found.

So "The Savage Garden" by Mark Mills was my first choice. I have to warn you,  I come from a family of fiercely obsessive detective novel readers and I don't judge this to have the best-constructed story ever. But it does have a certain charm that works over you and doesn't leave quickly.
 
The story concerns a young man, Adam, who is sent by his university professor to post-war Italy to investigate the secret symbolism of a fantastical Renaissance garden. By doing so, he discovers both the secret that lies behind the garden's making; but he also uncovers more recent secrets from partisan wartime, which might perhaps more happily have remained hidden. 

So yes, it ain't the best-written book ever. But it does evoke this mysterious garden with its fountains, sculpture, groves and grottoes, all with hidden meanings that Adam begins to work out using documents from the house's library. 

If you've ever been to Rousham (I'm going on about Rousham again) it's that kind of a garden. In fact I found the book more appealing in my memory, after going round Rousham with a group who all wondered what General Dormer had been up to with his iconography. And it was a happy way to while away a few hours, I have to say. I won't be reading any more of his, but for 75p it didn't have to be a total winner. 



The Coalition says: never call a serious novel after a bad Australian pop group

6 comments:

posh spice said...

you love Savage Garden, you are always singing along to their records in your bedroom.

Jane Perrone, Horticultural blog said...

I should point that that it's mostly reading, not re-reading, barring some of Christopher Lloyd's books. And I can't claim to be that much of an expert on horticultural literature.

I am also reading the Grapes of Wrath for the first time at the moment, which in itself could be seen as a treatise on how not to grow corn ...

emmat said...

Hee hee. I have never read the Grapes of Wrath. I actually gave away to the Oxfam shop the other day a copy of East of Eden that I'd had, and been meaning to read, since 1989 (it had the date in it). I suppose the clue about the non-useful horticultural guidance of GOW might be in the title...

Arabella Sock said...

I felt 'Savage Garden' was a missed opportunity. The idea was great and the story behind the statuary and garden was very interesting but the rest of the plot was pretty rubbish.
Not one of a thousand books to read before you die but not a total waste of life either.

emmat said...

I agree with you, A Sock. I definitely wouldn't ever bother to read any more by him, but it wasn't totally without enjoyment as far as I was concerned. Luckily, I did find some more rewarding horticultural reads on my trawls through the Oxfam shop.

VP said...

Ooh ooh ooh, what did you find?

AND I've just seen your sparkly new sidebar - wow thanks Emma!