Top Ten Tuesday: Literary Gardens

For That Artsy Reader Girls Top Ten Tuesday:

This week’s topic was:

April 19: Bookish Merchandise I’d Love to Own

But I’m not big on bookish merchandise. If I’m going to spend money on bookish stuff, I’ll spend it on actual books, thank you! But since it’s spring, and it’s starting to get nice out, I decided to look at gardens. Even though I’m not a gardener (I don’t have the patience for it) I do love a story set in a garden. So here are some favorites:

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

This is a classic garden. Mary goes to live with her uncle on the gloomy Yorkshire moors, but discovers a hidden, abandoned garden. By nurturing it back to life, Mary restores health, both physical and mental, to herself and everyone around her.

Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce

Tom is staying with his aunt and uncle who live in the city with nowhere to play outdoors. But when the clock strikes 13 each night (yes, you read that right) Tom sneaks out of bed and goes to play in a garden that appears only then.

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

I remember when I read this, it reminded me of The Secret Garden in a number of ways. That may have been intentional, because The Secret Garden author, Frances Hodgson Burnett, even makes a cameo appearance here.

Garden Spells- Sarah Addison Allen

Claire Waverly has a magical garden behind their North Carolina home, that is the work of generations of Waverly women. The fruits and flowers enhance the lives of those who know how to use them well.

Earthly Joys and Virgin Earth by Phillippa Gregory

These can be read as a duology or as stand alones. The first is about John Tradescant, a royal gardener in the early 17th century. The second follows his son, who travels to Virginia. Father and son have little in common other than a love of making things grow.

The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley

Eva Ward returns to her Cornwall to spread her sister’s ashes. She discovers that she can slip into the estate’s past. The rose garden serves as a kind of anchor for her travels.

Consider the Lily by Elizabeth Buchan

This is a book I read a lot time ago and liked a lot. It also had some Secret Garden vibes. Gardening once again is a metaphor for the life and health of the characters. I’d like to reread this at some point soon.

Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino

This book consists of Marco Polo and Kublai Khan sitting in Khan’s garden, while Marco Polo describes all of his travels and the places that he’s been.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Spring-y Books

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

March 9: Spring Cleaning Freebie (for example, books you’re planning to get rid of for whatever reason, book’s you’d like to clean off your TBR by either reading them or deciding you’re not interested, books that feel fresh and clean to you after winter is over, etc.)

For this one I decided to stay simple and go with books that feel like/ remind me of springtime. Themes of nature, rebirth, renewal, hope, and second chances abound!

  1. The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim– It’s a miserable February when two English ladies see an advertisement “To Those Who Appreciate Wistaria and Sunshine.” They end up spending their April with two other ladies. The only thing these four have in common really is dissatisfaction with their everyday lives. The month they spend in a medieval castle in Portafino, Italy, is transformative for all.

2. The Lake House by Kate Morton– This is actually not my favorite Kate Morton book, but it does strike me as the most spring-y. Alice lives on her family’s estate in Cornwall. Her baby brother, Theo vanishes without a trace one night after a party, and the family, torn apart, abandons the lake house. Decades later, the house is discovered by Sadie, a young detective with the London police force, who is staying in Cornwall with her grandfather. Her investigation into what happened long ago connects her with Alice, and some shocking revelations. I think the themes of healing and second chances make this one feel like springtime.

3. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett- This childhood favorite is all about rebirth, renewal, second chances, and of course, gardens! Mary is raised in India and sent to her uncle’s gloomy English manor after she’s orphaned by a cholera outbreak. As she tries to crave a new life for herself on the moors, she discovers and abandoned garden. In making the garden grow, she helps herself and others grow as well. She brings healing, and new life, to a grieving household.

4. Earthly Joys and Virgin Earth by Phillipa Gregory- Technically these two books make up the Tradescant duology, but they’re both pretty stand alone, so they can be read in either order. The first book is about John Tradescant, royal gardener in 17th century England. The second book follows his son, who immigrates to America (which was then colonies). The only thing that the father and son, and the two books, have in common is their name, and their strong connection to nature.

5. Arcadia by Lauren Groff- In upstate New York, in the 1970s, a few idealists found a commune on the grounds of a decaying mansion (Arcadia House). They vow to work together and live off the land. The books follows the utopian dream through it’s demise. This may seem almost: anti-spring! After all the living off nature idea falls apart. But the people change. They grow. They realize they have to face the wider world outside, and they emerge when they’re ready to take it on. To me that seems like a springtime theme.

6. Persuasion by Jane Austen- This is actually one of my least favorite Austen books (which still makes it better that about 90% of other books!), but it’s themes of first loves and second chances make it great for spring. It’s about a couple that falls in love and is separated by fate. Years later, they meet again. Older, wiser, and still in love. Is it too late for them? After all, they’ve both grown and changed… Of course not! Spring is the season of second chances.

7. Spring by Ali Smith-Spring is the third novel in Ali Smith’s Seasonal Quartet. All of the novels have connections but they’re all stand alone and can be read in any order. All are about contemporary Britain, but also in a larger sense about the attitudes of the western world. This book has a focus on immigration and refugee crises. While the depiction of detention centers is sometimes hard to take, there is also a sense of optimism and hope that we can learn and change, that feels spring-y.


8. Flush: A Biography by Virginia Woolf– This imagined biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s loyal canine friend is a story of love, companionship and renewal. It’s also a story of transformation, change and growth. We see Flush go from stifled lap dog to cosmopolitan dog about town.

9. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter- This book opens on the Italian coast in 1962. A chance at romance between an innkeeper and an aspiring actress is cut off. But 50 years later it might get a second chance thanks to some Hollywood hustlers. This could have been a cynical Hollywood satire, but Walter gives the story a sweetness that is accompanied by wit.

10. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed- Cheryl Strayed is in sort of a personal, metaphorical winter at the beginning of this memoir. And much of the content takes her though actual snowpack! But she emerged from the winter, stronger, wiser, and most of all, hopeful: a metaphorical spring ends the winter.