The true university these days is a collection of books.
-Thomas Carlyle

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Through the Garden Gate by Susan Hill

After being totally enchanted with The Magic Apple Tree last year, by the author who is otherwise known for her ghost stories, I managed to buy second hand copies of her other similar books, about living in the countryside. Through the Garden Gate is the first of the 2 titles.

The illustrations by Angela Barrett draw you into this lovely book, where Susan Hills voice describes the various gardens throughout her life. Starting with The Gardens of my Childhood, and on to other chapters covering Herb Gardens, Rose Gardens, Wilderness, Winter Gardens, Vegetable Gardens, Potted Gardens, and Night Gardens, among others, you get a little burst of pictures and musings in each chapter. This book is about sharing a love of gardens rather than a tome of practical information. It is an indulgence, for writer and reader.

I loved the reference to Alice in Wonderland at the beginning, and the Ten Delights of a Garden which included such carefree thoughts of 'Rhubarb plants left to spread, tower and run all to seed...The smell of tomato plants inside a conservatory...Pincushion moss growing in the crevices of a stone wall'. Susan Hills gardens are not the ordered kind of exotic blooms, tamed into submission and planned to the last detail. They are places to get lost in, marvel at how they do their own thing, a little bit wild, but always beautiful, surprising and full of wonderful things. A partnership between gardener and garden with an adventure around every corner. Exactly the kind of garden I would love to have, but try to emulate with my modest bit of ground at the front and back of the house.

Although not quite as amazing as The Magic Apple Tree, it is certainly a book to dip into if, like me, you enjoy listening to Susan Hills voice, taking you around gardens of the imagination, that you would love to visit for real. A book to get lost in, very sensory, and a short read that some of you could polish off in one go.

The nearest places I have seen that come close to the ideal gardens of my imagination are The Forbidden Corner in Yorkshire (like visiting every childrens story you read when you were a child) and Newby Hall near Ripon, for a beautiful historic garden with quirky details, including a gate that was taken from Newgate prison in London when it was closed down in 1902.

I would love any recommendations for beautiful or interesting gardens that you know of.


Annie said...

I love Susan Hill's writing whatever genre she is working in. She has the most superb way with words. I can just get lost in her use of language. Having said that, I haven't read either of these, so clearly I still have a lot of pleasure to come.

Leah said...

Hi Annie, I do recommend the couuntryside ones. Really peaceful books to read. I also fancy Susan Hill's memoirs about books and reading that you have spoken about on your blog.

Hay on Wye

Hay on Wye