I am always glad when a friend recommends a book that I would have never discovered on my own. Why on earth would I pay attention to the title The Morville Hours: The Story of a Garden? Well by chance perhaps, searching for something on gardenin, but I don't think I would believe that the book was something for me. But a friend whose opinon I value has recommended it, and it had been on my Shelfari list for ages before I discovered, last week, that it was available on Kindle and bought it. Kindle is dangerous, much too easy to buy.
I don't know how to characterise the book - perhaps I have never read anything lke it. I don't read a lot of nonfiction (except for professional literature), and this isn't pure nonfiction either. It's autobiography, popular history, popular everything - a bit like Bryson's A short history of everything - a bit of this and a piece of that, classic mythology and Christian saints; painting and geology, gardening manual and family story. It is superficially about making a garden, and I feel envious when I read that she planted 600 yew trees. Not that I would have space for them, but planting trees presupposes that you expect to see them grow. It becomes clear eventually that the garden took her twenty years to complete, full-time. I feel more envious because I do not have the necessary twenty years, and the trees I planted twenty years ago are left behind (she writes about it as well).
What I enjoyed most is her elegant writing, the neatness with which she weaves in all the scores upon scores of side stories, known and less known facts, sensitive personal memories and poetry quotations and philosophical reflections. I never expected to enjoy a nonfiction book for the quality of prose. And you don't have to love gardening to enjoy it.