The prolific and much-loved British writer Penelope Lively's Life in the Garden is a heady remembrance of landscapes both real and fictional and a celebration of Lively's love of all things horticulture. Now in her 85th year, she gardens on, albeit at a more limited pace than before. From her mother's home in Cairo to her own vast grounds in Oxfordshire, Lively (Dancing Fish and Ammonites) reflects on the wonder and solace of nature and the timeless, therapeutic attributes of gardening. In the process, she addresses horticultural manners and fashions, what flower preferences say about people, the joys and perils of marital gardening and the possession of a back yard as a social indicator.
Life in the Garden is rich with precious knowledge acquired over many decades, and Lively is poetic as well as playful as she muses on the manipulation of flora, the imposition of order where nature prefers disorder. In line with this inherent conflict between environment and worker, she refers to weeding as "a bout of ethnic cleansing." It is the anticipatory nature of gardening and the power of gardens to refute time that Lively finds supremely comforting. The rose, that most symbolic of flowers, is given special consideration, as are the pioneering efforts of Willa Cather and Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Life in the Garden is a beautiful escape into the countless wonders of gardens and their enjoyment. It is Lively's gift to her longtime fans as well as to those just now discovering the delights of her literary largess. --Shahina Piyarali, writer and reviewer