Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Serendipity

I just spent the past week immersed in two lovely books: The Morville Year and The Morville Hours, by Katherine Swift. Regular readers of this blog know that the eleventh book in the Sebastian St. Cyr series, Untitled (yeah, the lack of a title starting to bug me), will see Sebastian and Hero and Simon traveling north to Shropshire (for reasons that will become more clear after you've read #10, Who Buries the Dead). One of the characters in the Shropshire book is a woman who lives in a dower house around which she has created a lovely garden. And in one of those marvelous accidents of fate, I was kicking around the Internet one day when I stumbled upon Swift, who has created a lovely garden around a National Trust dower house in Shropshire, and wrote two books about it. So of course I ordered them.

I was hoping they might prove to be useful research tools; what I didn't expect was to be swept away. These are enchanting books, full of all sorts of marvelous details about plants and birds and butterflies and bees, about the cycle of the seasons and folkways and ancient traditions, about life and history and country folk and one woman's intense love for the making of a garden.

You know a book has really touched you when you realize it has caused a shift in your thinking, a change in your outlook. My own garden has been hideously neglected this past year, with all of my weekends going to getting my mother's house ready to sell (closing this Thursday!!!!!!!!!). Neglect a garden in New Orleans and it will swallow your house. I've been feeling so oppressed and anxious about it that my attitude was destroying my joy in my garden (well, that plus New Orleans' brutal summer heat). Thanks to Swift, I've been able to let go that oppressive sense of, Oh, God, I should have cut back my roses by now! and It's almost time for the leaves to start falling again and I never finished picking up last year's! Yes, my garden's a mess. But I'm slowly bringing it back, and thanks to Swift, I find I can relax and enjoy the process of getting it there far more than I would have otherwise. Her gift to me.

Magical books.


28 comments:

Susan J. said...

They look beautiful books. I love books about gardens. Have you read Elizabeth Von Arnim's 'The Enchanted April'. about four women, all with their own problems who find solace, healing, friendship and love on a holiday at an Italian castle surrounded by beautiful gardens? It was published in 1922. The BBC did a beautiful film of it some years ago, I have the DVD. I also have Von Arnim's 'Elizabeth and her German Garden', published 1898, which I have not got around to reading yet but it looks as beautifully written as 'The Enchanted April'.

JustWingingIt said...

I'm glad you've re-discovered your joy for your garden. As for myself, I've never had a green thumb to speak of. I pretty much kill every green thing around me either because I over water it, or I don't water it enough.

I'm excited to hear that Sebsatian, Hero, and baby Simon will be taking a trip in an upcoming book. I think Sebastian would've been loathe to leave his new family behind. And Hero doesn't strike me as the type to let herself get left behind, lol.

Oh, and congrats on finally closing on your mothers house. One chapter ends as another begins.

Veronica

Lynne said...

As a passionate gardener, I can totally appreciate how you feel. Particularly as this summer was brutal like yours. I got so little done and then sat and worried about it. Thankfully the past two weeks have moderated and I'm slowly catching up. But don't sweat the small stuff - gardens are terribly forgiving. (I don't cut the roses down until spring.) The book sounds lovely.
And Susan - was the movie the same title as your book?

Suzanne said...

I am afraid I am like Veronica with plants. I tell me friends and family that if they want to condemn a plant to death then give it to me for Christmas. I have the brownest thumb in Australia.

Susan, I loved The Enchanted April movie as well and have it on DVD. It was the first thing I had ever seen Michael Kitchen of Foyle's War fame in. It was a beautiful movie and very funny.

Helena said...

Thank you so much for recommending these books. I love books about gardens so am looking forward to reading these.

I hope you can catch your garden and sort it out before winter, once you manage to offload your mother's house!

cs harris said...

Susan, I'll have to look for that film; sounds lovely!

Veronica, Hero is turning out to be VERY active in this book; not sure why!

Lynne, we cut our roses back in August so they'll bloom in October, then cut them back hard in January.

Suzanne, now I really know I need to find that film.

Helena, hope you enjoy them as much as I did.



Charles Gramlich said...

I'll have to keep these on my radar.

Susan J. said...

Candy: Hope you manage to find a DVD of 'Enchanted April', you could buy it a few years ago as a video, it's the BBC but I think you have a different format in America, so you would maybe have to find it there. I just remembered I heard an American writer talking about it on Hay House Radio, she said it was one of her favourite DVD's, so you must be able to get it there.
Lynne: I have a feeling the film is called 'Enchanted April' without the 'The'(mine's taped off the TV, so I would have to play it to get the title) but the book is 'The Enchanted April'. My copy is published by Virago.

Susan J. said...

Suzanne: Forgot to say I love Michael Kitchen also, such a subtle actor. Miranda Richardson is lovely in it also.

Lynne said...

Susan: Thanks - that sounds familiar. And if Michael Kitchen is in it I know I'll love it. He's the best! (I told a friend once that he could come live at my house anytime:).)
Candy: Cutting roses twice year seems so weird but of course I forget that your seasons are so different than mine.

Susan J. said...

I looked Katherine Swift up on Google and was interested to see how her renovations reflect the different periods in the history of the gardens. Must be a fascinating place to visit. When I was a child my father took me to many stately homes in Kent and Sussex with beautiful gardens, such as the Tudor houses Knole (home to Vita Sackville West)and Batemans (home to Rudyard Kipling). I loved them and spent many happy hours dreaming that I lived in such wonderful places. I remember the smell of them most, the beeswax polish of the lovely old funiture and the bowls of scented dried flowers.

cs harris said...

Charles, not sure it's your kind of book!

Susan, I haven't checked yet but I'm hoping Netflix will have it. I'm another Michael Kitchen fan

Lynne, we did that in Australia, too. It was the first time I'd heard of it.




Susan J. said...

I just rewatched the film, it is called 'Enchanted April', rather than 'The Enchanted April' which is the title of the book. Must have seen it ten times but never get tired of it.

Lynne said...

Candy, Netflix has Enchanted April. I just added it to my queue a couple of days ago.

Susan J. said...

I just watched a BBC Four programme about Virginia Woolf's novel, 'Mrs Dalloway' and it reminded me of the film that was made of it ten to fifteen years ago, which also has Michael Kitchen in it. It also stars lovely Vanessa Redgrave as Clarissa Dalloway. The film really captures the essence of the book, the fragmented lives of a set of people over the passage of one day in 1920's London. Their connections, however tenuous and Clarissa's memories of the past in a late Victorian country house summer. I have a DVD of it, so you can probably get that also, somewhere, maybe on Ebay.

hwueste said...

Found the DVD on Amazon called "Enchanted Evening". Happy watching.

cs harris said...

Susan and hwueste, we're in the process of buying a new smart TV, which should hopeful make it easier to watch this sort of thing. (Once we figure out how to use it.)

Lynne said...

Oh, dear...don't start with the "Smart" TVs...the directions are so complicated it's ridiculous. I've had mine just 2 yrs and still haven't figured it out. I think they will do a song and dance routine if only you can understand how to program them.

Susan, I remember when that movie came out...we were reading Mrs. Dalloway in our book club. If Michael Kitchen is in it I'll have to look for it...thanks.

Susan J. said...

Lynne: It's a truly beautiful film. I saw it at the cinema the first time, it was wonderful to look at. Michael Kitchen plays the older Peter Walsh. Did you enjoy the book? It's my favourite of Woolf's books, although I also liked 'Orlando', and there is a film of that also, with Tilda Swinton! On the BBC programme I just watched about 'Mrs Dalloway', it was amusing to hear that Woolf used the money from the book to have an indoor toilet fitted in her house in the country! You can go on the BBC website and get a link to The Open University for information about this series of literary programmes that have been on, which has included discussions about Shakespeare's 'First Folio' and Dickens' 'Great Expectations'.

Lynne said...

Thanks, Susan - Virginia Woolf isn't my favorite but I did find Mrs. Dalloway interesting and was glad I read it. And I'll check out the website.

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