This delightful companion to the famous Elizabeth and Her German Garden is a witty, lyrical account of a rejuvenating summer. Descriptions of magnificent larkspurs and burning nasturtiums give way to those of cooling forest walks--and of clambering up the mud bank when the miller is not in view. Rainy days prompt a little philanthropy, until the sun returns the gardener to the refuge of her beloved plants. Yet the months are not as solitary as she'd planned : there's the Man of Wrath to pacify and the April, May and June babies to amuse.
Sometimes, you have trouble rating a book. Is the recollection of a rich aristocratic woman of a summer spent in her garden with her books worth 5 stars ? There is no riveting plot, nothing really happens and her life sometimes feels unreal.
However, Elizabeth von Arnim knows how to share her deep abiding love for her garden, for her books, those she loves to read again and again and those that won't remain on her shelves for long. She writes delightfully about soldiers billeted in her home (= invading her privacy) and how she has to entertain them, the gardeners who happen on her when she wants to remain alone and quiet, the strange customs of the villagers, but mostly, she writes of how impossible it is for her to spend one day without her garden, in all seasons. The plants she chose, the struggle it was to make them grow, the fails, the wild flowers, wild gardens, the scents, the colours, and mostly the peace and happiness she finds there, the beauty she enjoys.
She was a woman who didn't have much to do during the day but play a little with her children, dine with her family, entertain accointances, read, write, enjoy her gardens, so her life doesn't have much in common with mine. Yet I love the way she writes : she communicates her passions effortlessly, like she's not even trying, with tongue in cheek humour, just like Ella Fitzgerald sang so wonderfully with apparently so little effort on her behalf. She was kind and took pleasure in little things, she enjoyed quiet and beauty. Re-reading this in winter, while it is cold and damp and there is hardly any flower in sight is like a balm on my spirit, it suffused me with a warmth that put a smile on my face during all these pages *happy sigh*...
"He was a good man, for he loved his garden" - that is the epitaph I would have put on his monument, because it gives one a far clearer sense of his goodness and explains it better than any amount of sonorous Latinities. How could he be anything but good since he loved a garden - that divine filter that filters all the grossness out of us, and leaves us, each time we hav been in it, clearer, and purer, and more harmless ?"
On German novels and the German love of food :
"Any story-book or novel you take up is full of feeling descriptions of what everybody ate and drank, and there are a great many more meals than kisses ; so that the novel-reader who expects a love-tale finds with disgust that he is put off with menus."