Night Gardening


Deep within each of us lies a garden. An intensely personal place. Throughout most of our lives, this garden remains hidden from view save for brief glimpses during moments spent daydreaming or in quiet contemplation…but many of us long to make this imaginative garden real.Julie Moir Messervy, The Inward Garden

For the second time in about three years I’ve read with deep pleasure Night Gardening, by E.L.Swann, pseudonym of award-winning children’s author Kathryn Lasky. It’s a most heart-warming yet bittersweet novel about gardening and finding love in later life. Widowed Maggie struggles to recover from a stroke and with the help of a landscape architect begins to restore her beloved garden during the night, away from the prying eyes of caregivers and her demanding alcoholic children. Swann beautifully develops the parallels of friendship growing into love, a body healing itself and a garden coming back to life, as signs of the restorative powers of love. Her plant knowledge and descriptions of the garden as a spiritual place provide a rich and sensuous background. Each chapter opens with a botanical drawing and a beautiful quote like the one above by several well-known landscape designers.

I am going to order a copy for a dear friend who’s an avid gardener and a book lover (and one for me too as I have to return this one to the library!).

As an aside and with apologies to non-Finnish readers, this seems the right place to refer to a recent conversation on the Finnish blog Dionysoksen kevät. His light-hearted post is about romance novels and about a Romantic Novel of the Year Award given to Erica James for her Gardens of Delight. As most of us know, romantic novels receive a certain amount of scorn, especially by critics of ¨literary” novels. In the comments, several of us including yours truly admit enjoying well-written and researched romantic novels, and that this is no different from enjoying romantic movies. Another interesting point made is that when men write romance, these are considered literary, while romances written by women are usually considered only frivolous entertainment. We believe there is room for all well-written genres and room for pleasure. What do you think?

April 28, 2006 in Books by Marja-Leena