Friday, October 24, 2014


A week ago when day-time highs were back in the 90s it was no time to be outside in the afternoon hours. In fact it was a perfect day to spend with a new book I had received to review, The Writer's Garden, by Jackie Bennett with photographs by Richard Hanson.

With great excitement I opened the book to see which of my favorite writers might be featured. I was not to be disappointed. Jane Austen, Agatha Christie, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Winston Churchill and Rudyard Kipling are just a sample of the literary names whose gardens brought inspiration to their writing. There are 20 authors, playwrights, poets and historians featured each influenced by the gardens of the places they lived or visited. Many of these gardens, where they still exist, are open to the public.

Each writer receives a dedicated chapter except for Henry James and E F Benson who both spent time living at Lamb House. The book is generously illustrated with photographs of the authors and the places which inspired them in their writings.

The subjects of each chapter do not seem to be organized in any particular way and appear to be random. Jane Austen is featured in the first chapter and I found I knew little about her real life, thinking, as many, she was like many of the young ladies in her books, who lived a somewhat charmed social life. In fact her father was a vicar and supplemented his income by taking in pupils. They grew their own food and kept animals. So Jane would have spent much time with nature and was her happiest in the countryside.

Would Virginia Woolf have been able to write "It was the moment between six and seven when every flower glows." if she had not been a keen observer in her own garden. Haven't we gardeners experienced that same moment in gardens, although we may never have put it into those words.

Or would Rudyard Kipling have been able to write his famous The Glory of the Garden, if he had not watched the day to day work in his own garden.. This poem has remained with me from the age of 8, although my thinking was that it was just a beautiful poem with lyrical rhyme about a place I loved dearly. In fact it had much deeper meaning.

With some nostalgia I read about Rupert Brooke and his love for Granchester. On one of my early dates with David we took a punt to Granchester to the idyllic Orchard tea room, about which Brooke writes. Another time, the morning after the May Ball, we drove to Granchester for breakfast. I know why Brooke wrote and loved the place so much.

The Author, Jackie Bennet, began her career in broadcasting, producing first gardening and then natural history programs. As a writer she became editor of several gardening magazines and has written about her own Norfolk garden.

Richard Hanson's photographs have appeared in many garden magazines and books and he has photographed the gardens of many famous writers.

The book is published by Frances Lincoln and would be a welcome addition to any gardener's library. It isn't just a book to place on the coffee table.  


  1. I hadn't even heard of it so thank you for the introduction.

  2. Such an amazing line "the moment between six and seven when every flower glows". I'd never considered before how it reflects observation taken from direct experience. Every gardener has experienced that moment, and I suspect there are multiple other connecting points in the book beyond the ones you've selected to draw us into it as readers. Thanks for the review!

  3. It doesn't surprise me that the spell gardens cast appears in the work of writers but it adds another dimension to both the gardens and the literature. I'll have to look for the book.

  4. So glad to find your review of this book. I've been wishing for a new garden book. If acquiring plants etc. for the garden is a bad habit of mine, buying gardening books is nearly as bad ... especially when they're beautifully photographed. And this one sounds lovely!

  5. Oh thank you for reviewing this book it sounds very interesting, combining 3 of my favorite things gardens, history and writers. I am off to Amazon....

  6. I'm glad to know about this book. Thanks for reviewing it, Jenny.

  7. I read about this book over at Red Dirt Ramblings and it sounds perfect. Books and gardens and favorites authors. I caannot think of any more delightful way to spend some winter evenings.