Monday, 6 August 2012

Olympics, new Rebus, and In the Garden with Jane Austen - book review

The Olympics are taking up much of my attention this past week.  I'm getting a little reading done, though only because we had a long weekend so I was able to read in the evening the past few days and finish a book. Darkfire by CJ Sansom, to be reviewed shortly..  I love the Olympics, I enjoy how the athletes try their best.  It's exciting and thrilling and sometimes heartbreaking to watch. 

At the same time, I had to share with you my excitement when I found on Amazon today that a NEW REBUS mystery is coming out!    

Yes indeed, John Rebus is back!  He is teaming up with Malcolm Fox, or rather, he and Malcolm cross paths.....all the old favourites are there, Siobhan Clarke, Big Ger Rafferty, and most of all, Rebus.  Still retired, and still pushing buttons and going where no one else wants to go.  Standing In Another Man's Grave isn't released here yet, there is no date out, and I'm still ecstatic.  NEW REBUS MYSTERY!!!! 

I thought for a change of pace that I would actually review a book today.   Some of the high heat and humidity  we have been suffering under have died away today, so that I feel energized and can think straight.  I'm posting while I can.....

In the Garden With Jane Austen by Kim Wilson

This was such a beautiful book.  Gardening and Jane Austen, what could be better? Well, this book takes bits and pieces of letters Jane, her mother, and her sister Casexened to the gardens in her various homes after her death.  It even shows some of the stunning gardens and settings she would have seen in her travels around south England, and wrote about, either to her family, or used as a basis in her books.        
I learned two big things reading this book:
1) Jane loved to garden and discussed flowers, fruits and vegetables and took an interest in raising the animals that were being raised for food by her family  She learned to raise animals and grow vegetables and fruit while growing up at the parsonage in Steventon, where her father was the rector. She and Cassandra looked after the animals, the chickens and the bees, and they often had what the house gardens and land offered as their main source of food.

2) that walking paths, garden paths, were used extensively in 18th century England.  Ladies didn't run, they didn't work out!  So to keep healthy, walking paths were built into gardens - thus, the ladies could go for several miles of walking if they walked around the gardens several times, depending on where they were living and the kinds of gardens around.  It makes me feel much better about my walking and less guilty that I hate working out (so I don't). Walking is good exercise,! 

I did not know that her brother Francis was wealthy enough to manage a country estate, which they did at Goodnestone Park.  This was the same brother who she visited for a short time in London, and who supported her and her mother after their father died. Goodnestone Park has several gardens,  and Jane visited her brother and sister-in-law frequently there.

There is alist at the back of the book, of the flowers grown in Jane's time. Unfortunately the original gardens at many of the places she lived are long gone now, however the head gardener at Chawton Cottage now (which is a trust historical estate) provided a list of the flowers grown now at the Cottage, with almost all the varieties used being available during the years Jane was alive.
-lady's mantle
star of Persia (allium)
basket of gold/gold alyssum
sweet William
 dianthus superbe
bleeding heart
geranium Buxton Blue
dogtooth daisy
Little Maid daylily
Madonna lily
winter honeysuckle, Hall's Honeysuckle
moonwort/money plant
maltese cross
yellow daylily
evening primrose
Jacob's ladder
garden phlox
Rosa Alba Belle Amour
Rosa centifolia Shailerss White Moss
black-eyed Susan
satin flower

I was delighted to see that I have some already in my garden, sweet william, daylilies, phlox, of course roses, money plant, maltese cross (though I can't grow these, they keep dying), Jacob's ladder, black-eyed Susan, alysum, and I dearly want to try growing some Hollyhock next year.

There are many pictures in this book, of the gardens and great houses that Jane would have visited, and pictures of the gardens at Chawton Cottage, old sketches if the gardens or houses don't exist any more, and delightful descriptions from Jane's letters, as well as excerpts from her novels. There are excerpts from gardeners of the time, thoughts on gardens, how to design them, what a successful 19th century garden should contain, the various uses of the garden. 

I found this book to be a delight for the soul.  It is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon, with a cup of tea,  reading about gardens and life in Jane Austen's time.  It gives a rare glimpse of how Jane used the landscape around her in her novels, and when I reread them, I know I will have a better understanding of how she used the garden settings in her books. I love that she loved her gardens and was happiest when she could have one to tend, a cottage with a garden.  She was a woman after my own heart, and since I already love her novels, this is such a deep pleasure to discover about her.


Chris said...

Ok've just made me SO excited!!! I've never been able to get into Jane Austen as much as I've wanted to. I've read Persuasion and was kind of meh about it. I'm going to try Northanger Abbey one day..think I may have better luck with that one...but THIS BOOK sounds like a PERFECT book about Ms. Austen that I would love!!! Yay!! Onto my wishlist it goes :D

Trish said...

I actually knew that about gardens but had forgotten the little detail! Seems so wonderful to be able to just meander down a lush garden path for hours, doesn't it? Put an audiobook on and go. Glad you're enjoying the book!

Susan said...

Chris: I wondered if all the garden pictures and talk about flowers would draw you in! yaay! I'm sorry you didn't enjoy Persuasion, it's one of my favourites by her, but then, at least you tried reading her. I hope you find the garden book more to your liking, and inspiring too (for garden thoughts, if not for reading more of her...)

Trish: I would love to be able to meander down a lush garden path for hours! Oh that would be a lovely way to spend part of each day :-) It was such a delightful book to read, so charming.